KABUL, (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai will unveil his new cabinet within days, a spokesman said on Sunday, adding that efforts to start talks with Taliban insurgents and implementing anti-corruption measures were underway.
Karzai has been under intense pressure from Washington and its Western allies fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and bankrolling its economy, to crack down on graft and appoint technocrats in his cabinet, rather than former “warlords”.
A Karzai spokesman said the new cabinet would be announced in the next three days. “It will happen in three days time. It may be announced either tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or the one afterward,” Hamid Elmi said.
Sworn in last month for a second five-year term, Karzai’s reputation was severely damaged after a U.N.-backed inquiry found nearly a third of votes cast for him in an Aug. 20 election were fake. He pledged in his inauguration speech to name competent and honest ministers.
“The president is still consulting with politicians, experts and elders to come up with a cabinet which all the people of Afghanistan can see as a mirror,” Elmi said.
On Tuesday U.S. President Barack Obama pledged an additional 30,000 troops for Afghanistan, as U.S. public support for the war wanes. The conflict is at its deadliest since the Taliban were overthrown in 2001 and Karzai was appointed leader.
Asked if Kabul’s Western backers were pushing preferred candidates onto Karzai, Elmi said: “We will accept everyone’s logical consultation, but no one can impose individuals. But we will accept everyone’s useful consultation about the cabinet.”
Elmi said the government strategy on fighting graft involved removing officials who proved to be corrupt, reshuffling others, amending some of the country’s laws and regulations and strengthening the police and the judiciary.
Last month Afghanistan said it would a hold a conference on corruption in the near future. A deputy attorney general has also said two Afghan cabinet ministers were being investigated under suspicion of embezzlement.
Karzai is also keen to move ahead with plan for a “Loya Jirga — or grand council — to reignite efforts to engage with the Taliban.
“The Taliban will be invited to take part in (the Jirga) and if they refuse to do so, then tribal chiefs will be asked to find ways of how to go ahead with the negotiations agenda,” Elmi said.