Afghanistan's Karzai will reappoint most of his Cabinet

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 17, 2009 

MCT

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry answers a question during an hour-long conference with Afghan citizens and representatives from the international community in Kabul.

THOMAS L. DAY — Thomas L. Day/Macon Telegraph/MCT

KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai will reappoint a number of key Cabinet members for his second five-year term, multiple members of the Afghan parliament said Thursday.

The lawmakers told McClatchy that Abdul Rahim Wardak, the minister of defense; Hanif Atmar, the minister of the interior; Amrullah Saleh, the head of the national intelligence directorate; Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatemi, the minister of health; Faruq Wardak, the minister of education; Col. Gen. Khodaidad, the minister of counter-narcotics; and Asif Rahimi, the minister of agriculture, all will be reappointed.

The list of Cabinet appointments will be sent to the Afghan parliament Saturday, but Karzai notified the parliament of his choices informally early Thursday evening.

His selections are widely considered a key indicator of whether he's serious about tackling the widespread corruption in the Afghan government, which is crucial to the Obama administration's efforts to maintain congressional and public support for its decision to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

Reaction to Karzai's choices, which came at the end of a three-day anti-corruption conference he hosted in Kabul, was mixed.

"I think it's a mixed bag," Daoud Sultanzoy, a member of parliament, said of the reappointments. "Most of them seem politically motivated" to please foreign governments.

"The international community wanted these guys to stay on these jobs," Sultanzoy added.

When he was asked why so many officials will be reappointed, Mirwais Yaseeny, the first deputy speaker of the parliament and a two-time Karzai presidential opponent, said that Karzai "does not know other Afghans."

During a meeting earlier Thursday with international diplomats and Afghan citizens, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry signaled that the U.S. intends to maintain a strong military presence in Afghanistan long after July 2011, when President Barack Obama plans to end his troop buildup.

Eikenberry warned, however, that, "After eight years of assistance to Afghanistan, many Americans and many members of Congress are impatient to see results."

"This is not a deadline, despite what some people in the United States and Afghanistan have said," Eikenberry said. He added that an American withdrawal in 18 months is "entirely based on the conditions that exist at that time."

The issue of corruption in the government seems unlikely to go away. Earlier this week at the anti-corruption conference, Karzai defended Kabul Mayor Abdul Ahad Sayebi, who was convicted last week and sentenced to four years in prison for corruption-related charges.

"I know the mayor," said Karzai, who'd appointed Sayebi. "He is a clean person."

Sayebi, after posting bail, attended the conference.

U.S. Ambassador Eikenberry declined to comment on Sayebi's conviction and Karzai's response to it, saying only that he'd "let the justice system proceed and determine the results."

The Cabinet selections had been delayed for about a week. The legislature had been waiting for the selections before going on winter recess, which is expected to last about six weeks.

(Day reports for The Telegraph of Macon, Ga.)

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