Karzai to reappoint top aides
Lawmakers say move signals how he'll address corruption.
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan President Hamid Karzai will reappoint a number of key cabinet members for his second five-year term, members of the Afghan parliament said yesterday.
The lawmakers told McClatchy Newspapers that Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Hanif Atmar would be reappointed, along with Amrullah Saleh, the head of the national intelligence directorate, and Col. Gen. Khodaidad, minister of counternarcotics.
Also keeping their jobs are the three ministers of health, education, and agriculture.
The cabinet list will be sent to the Afghan parliament tomorrow, but Karzai notified the parliament of his choices informally last night.
His selections are widely considered a significant indicator of whether he is 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. Some have expected that high-level ministers might be replaced.
The news came at the end of a three-day anticorruption conference that Karzai hosted in Kabul, and the reaction was somewhat muted.
"I think it's a mixed bag," said Daoud Sultanzoy, a member of parliament. "Most of them seem politically motivated" to please foreign governments. "The international community wanted these guys to stay on these jobs," he added.
Mirwais Yaseeny, the first deputy speaker of the parliament and a two-time Karzai presidential opponent, was asked why so many officials would be reappointed. He replied that Karzai "does not know other Afghans."
During a meeting earlier yesterday with international diplomats and Afghan citizens, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry signaled that the United States intended to maintain a strong military presence in Afghanistan long after July 2011, when President 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 anticorruption 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 appointed Sayebi. "He is a clean person."
Sayebi, after posting bail, attended the conference.
Eikenberry declined to comment on Sayebi's conviction and Karzai's response to it, saying only that he would "let the justice system proceed and determine the results."