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NATO

Afghanistan's defense minister quits

Afghanistan's defense minister has walked from his post, after losing a no-confidence vote. His departure comes on the same day as two violent terrorist attacks in the country.

Afghanistan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak abruptly resigned on Tuesday, leaving President Hamid Karzai scrambling to replace him as tensions over the country’s security increased.

Wardak, who has strong support from Afghanistan’s Western allies, resigned after he lost a no-confidence vote in parliament.

"I respected the parliament's decision to twice appoint me as defense minister, and now I accept the parliament decision to remove me. I resign my position," Wardak said to journalists.

Afghanistan’s divided parliament voted on Saturday to remove Wardak, along with Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi, over the country’s deteriorating security situation. In particular, the vote of no-confidence was prompted by recent assassinations of senior officials and cross-border attacks.

Striking at the pillars of power

The development came on a day when Afghanistan was beset by violence. A truck bomb exploded at a NATO military base south of the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Tuesday wounding three soldiers and at least 17 civilians, authorities said. Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred 70 kilometers (40 miles) south of the capital, Kabul.

Earlier on Tuesday a Taliban bomb also killed at least eight Afghan civilians when it was detonated by remote control on a bus just northwest of Kabul, on Tuesday, local police said. Five others were also wounded in the attack, which took place at 7:00 a.m. (local time) in Paghman district, Kabul province.

Police speculated that the bomb may have been intended for another bus transporting government employees to one of the country's ministries, and that the bus carrying civilians was blown up accidently.

Rising tensions

Concern about an escalation of violence is growing in Afghanistan: Last week Afghan officials claimed to have foiled a large-scale attack in the section of Kabul where Western embassies are located. Three vehicles containing explosives, hand grenades, machine-guns, rockets and suicide vests were found, according to officials. They claimed that terrorists intended to take over a tall building and directly fire on their targets from a high vantage point.

Intentions to launch such a major operation had suggested an attempt to rival an attack on embassies, military bases and government offices, which took place in Kabul in April. It was the biggest coordinated assault on the capital for a decade.

Dutch troops in Uruzgan, Afghanistan.

There is growing concern about what NATO's departure will mean for Afghanistan's security

NATO, which has 130,000 US-led troops stationed in Afghanistan but is scheduled to leave in 2014, has noted an increase in attacks in recent months. June had the highest number of assaults in nearly two years, with over 100 attacks a day across the country, coalition forces said.

NATO soldier killed

Later on Tuesday, NATO reported that a soldier was killed in eastern Afghanistan by two individuals wearing Afghan National Army Uniforms.

A US defense official has confirmed the soldier was an American, and that the two suspected shooters have been taken into custody.

NATO says an investigation is underway in conjunction with Afghan officials.

jlw, jr/mz (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)