KABUL (AP) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s nominees for a new Cabinet provoked dismay among many parliament members Saturday but a cautiously positive response from the United Nations mission in the war-torn, corruption-plagued country.
Officials from the United States and Britain, top troop-supplying countries who have been vocal about the need for reform, did not have immediate comment on the list that was presented to parliament.
Karzai’s list keeps U.S. favorites in several posts critical to the war and reconstruction and jettisons the heads of two ministries embroiled in corruption probes. He has been under intense international pressure to cleanse his government of corruption and mismanagement. But he also needs to mollify domestic political allies, including warlords, who have kept him in power. Some parliament members expressed strong concern about the new names among the nominees, suspecting they would do the bidding of warlords who are widely reviled for their brutality in the 1990s civil war and who still hold significant power in their regions.
“My fear and that of many MPs is that they maybe are the puppets of those warlords so that despite that they are considered civilized people and more educated people, they cannot implement their own ideas and initiatives,” said Khaled Pashtun, a parliament member from Kandahar.
“I think that if this Cabinet gets a confidence vote from the parliament of Afghanistan, it would not be able to put medicine on the injuries of the Afghan people,” said Gul Pacha Mujedi, a parliament member from Patkai province.
“One other issue which is very important is the participation of women; there is only one position and that is not enough for the women of Afghanistan.”
A presidential spokesman said Karzai made his decision in consultation with international officials and Afghan political figures but that he was not beholden to either. “He has listened to the international community and various political parties, but the final decision was made by the president,” spokesman Waheed Omar told reporters. He added that Karzai was confident that the proposed list of ministers would work to implement reforms to root out corruption from the administration.
Ambassador William Crosbie of Canada, whose country commands international troops in and around Kandahar city, said in a statement that “We are pleased to see that the list of candidates includes competent individuals, some of whom we have worked with in the past.”
Holdovers from the current Cabinet include the defense, interior and finance ministers. The list did not include a nominee for foreign minister; Karzai has said he will make that nomination after the international conference on Afghanistan to be held in London in late January. First Vice President Mohammad Fahim told the parliament that those nominated for the new Cabinet were “ministers who were experts and did a good job.”
A U.N. spokesman said the list as presented looked promising, noting that many appointments could change as legislators debate.
“Early indications are encouraging for some of the key ministries,” Aleem Siddique said, though he would not discuss specific posts.
“The U.N. has made clear that we need to see more reform-oriented ministries and of the names we’ve seen, we’re seeing a step on the right direction,” he added. Several of the new appointments have previous government experience and good educational credentials. It’s unclear, though, whether they will clean up the bribery and graft that has become business as usual in the government. As with Karzai’s first Cabinet, the new slate of proposed ministers is a collection of Western-educated Afghans and former mujahedeen or their nominees.
Karzai wants to replace Muhammad Ibrahim Adel, the current minister of mines. Earlier this month, two U.S. officials in Washington alleged that Adel 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 that Karzai was also aware of it.
The president 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. Also Saturday, the international forces in Afghanistan reported that a U.S. serviceman was killed Friday by a roadside explosive in southern Afghanistan. Further details were not given.