KABUL, Afghanistan - President Hamid Karzai is poised to present a new cabinet that retains a number of respected ministers with the West's stamp of approval but also at least one notorious former warlord, aides disclosed yesterday.
Karzai's ministerial lineup, which could be announced as soon as today, is being watched closely by the United States and its Western allies as an indicator of whether he is serious about cracking down as promised on rampant corruption in his government.
Corruption is many Afghans' chief grievance against their leaders, pervading nearly all aspects of daily life. Karzai last month was sworn in for a second five-year term after an election clouded by massive vote-rigging, and has been put on notice since by the West that he must act decisively to clean up his administration.
A list of likely cabinet members circulating yesterday included at least half a dozen ministers who have received the public blessing of U.S. and other Western officials - mainly those most closely associated with security, or with other ministries through which large amounts of foreign aid are funneled.
Nearly half of the current cabinet lineup of 25 is being asked to stay on, including the ministers of defense, interior, finance, foreign affairs, public health and agriculture, considered the key ministries.
The rest apparently are being dismissed, including at least two ministers embroiled in multimillion-dollar scandals.
A number of prospective ministers carry the kind of technocratic credentials that Karzai had promised to bring to his government, although a conspicuous absentee is Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank economist who is regarded highly in the West and a onetime presidential rival to Karzai.
On the list of people keeping their jobs, though, is Ismail Khan, minister of water and energy and an influential former militia leader with a power base in the west of Afghanistan. Western diplomats had made no secret of their wish to see him sent packing.
Khan, accused of war crimes by independent groups including Human Rights Watch, was said by Karzai aides to be on track to remain in the same post.