KABUL (AP) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to retain a half-dozen key Cabinet officials who have been embraced by the international community as he begins his second term and will replace two ministry heads linked to corruption, three officials in the Afghan government said Friday. He also plans to keep on board a legendary warlord who holds political sway in the west, the officials said.
Karzai has been working on his new Cabinet since even before he was sworn in Nov. 19 for another five years. The long-awaited list is seen as the first test of his willingness to assemble a team of reformists to respond to the international community’s demand that he cleanse the government of corruption.
Karzai’s decision to keep a handful of key ministers in their posts appears to be a nod to the U.S. and other nations sending troops and financial aid to the war-worn, impoverished nation.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the list will not be formally announced until Saturday, said Karzai wants 12 of the 25 current ministers to stay on their jobs for now.
They include the ministers of defense, interior, foreign affairs, finance, public health and agriculture, all who have received kudos from the international community. While Karzai wants to dismiss half his current Cabinet, most of the new faces come with strong education credentials or government experience and are not likely to provoke criticism by the West.
Karzai’s new Cabinet list, however, retains Ismail Khan, the current minister of Water and Energy. Khan, who is a powerful political figure in the Herat region of western Afghanistan, has been accused by Human Rights Watch of perpetrating war crimes during Afghanistan’s past quarter-century of conflict.
Karzai has chosen to replace Muhammad Ibrahim Adel, the current minister of mines. Earlier this month, two U.S. officials in Washington said that Adel allegedly took a $20 million bribe to steer a $3 billion copper mining project to a Chinese company. The minister denied taking any bribes, saying the agreement was approved by the Cabinet and Karzai was also aware of it. He also wants to replace Sediq Chakari, who heads the Ministry of Hajj and Mosque. Allegations surfaced recently that money was pocketed at the ministry. Chakari, who has denied involvement, said two of his employees were being investigated in connection with missing money paid to the government to organize travel and accommodation for this year’s annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Karzai’s picks for his new Cabinet must be approved by the Afghan parliament.
In addition to Khan, the officials said Karzai wants to keep:
-Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak
-Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta
-Interior Minister Hanif Atmar
-Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal
-Public Health Minister Dr. Mohammad Amin Fatemi
-Agriculture Minister Muhammad Asif Rahimi
-Justice Minister Mohammad Sarwar Danish
-Education Minister Ghulam Farooq Wardak
-Women’s Affairs Husn Bano Ghazanfar
-Communications Minister Amirzai Sangeen
-Counternarcotics Minister Gen. Khodaidad, who uses one name.
Also Friday, the Kandahar regional governor’s office said three civilians were killed in an attack by a helicopter gunship used by international forces.
NATO said it was investigating the reported casualties in the Thursday night incident in the Shah Wali Kot district.
It said initial operational reports indicated that the helicopter fired on men who were placing an explosive device along a road.
In Khakhrez, another district of Kandahar, seven civilians were killed Thursday when a roadside mine blast hit their vehicle, the governor’s office said.