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Munir Mangal, Afghan General and Police Commander, Dies at 70

This obituary is part of a series about people who died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here

Munir Mohamad Mangal, an Afghan general who had served in the country’s security forces for four decades, most recently as national police commander, died on May 2 at his home in Kabul. He was 70.

The cause was Covid-19, the Interior Ministry said. He was Afghanistan’s highest-profile casualty of the pandemic and the second member of his family to die of the virus. His son, a physician, also died.

“He was a patriot — a strong and calm officer,” said a former colleague, Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, who had worked with General Mangal for several years.

General Mangal was born in 1950 in Samkanay District of eastern Paktia Province and attended primary and military school in Kabul before earning a master’s degree in military affairs in the Soviet Union.

He started his military career as a lieutenant in an artillery division in Kabul in 1972. In nearly 40 years in uniform, he served under the many shades of government that took power in Kabul, the last being the American-backed leadership, before retiring in 2016.

Survivors include his wife, four sons, two daughters and 13 grandchildren.

In the early years of the U.S. invasion, General Mangal helped with the forming of the new army, serving as a corps commander. His final assignment was deputy minister of interior for security, in which he commanded the nation’s police force.

The Afghan police are at the forefront of the fight against the Taliban, and hundreds die every month. General Mangal ran the force when about 100,000 NATO and American troops were in the country and shouldered much of the fighting. Colleagues said that in areas where the police were engaged, his attention to detail and thorough planning ensured that casualties were kept low.

He could also be decisive in the moment. Once while he was traveling by helicopter from Kandahar to Kabul, the craft he was in started losing stability over a Taliban-controlled area in Ghazni province, Gen. Ghulam Mujtaba Patang, a colleague who later became minister of interior, said.

“The pilot asked if he should do an emergency landing,” General Patang said. “General Mangal said ‘No.’ He turned his face to me and said: ‘It’s better to die in a crash than be taken hostage by the Taliban.’”

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