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Afghan President Unveils New List Of Cabinet Picks


Afghan President Hamid Karzai's new term is already getting bumpy politically.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's new term is already getting bumpy politically.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has submitted a new list of cabinet nominees to parliament in his second bid to form a government, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

No prominent former guerrilla chiefs and fewer from Karzai's inner circle appear to be among the picks, which might be expected to please both the West and many of Karzai's critics at home.

But early indications were that the list of largely unknown figures would face considerable hurdles.

Deputies last week rejected most of Karzai's initial 24 picks, dealing a major blow to the man who has led Afghanistan since U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001.

In an apparent concession to lawmakers, the new list omits all 17 candidates previously rejected by parliament.

It contains 16 names, including Karzai's longtime security adviser Zalmay Rasul, nominated to the previously unfilled post of foreign minister.

Karzai did not submit a candidate to replace Ismail Khan, a Herat-based warlord who is currently the powerful minister of Water and Energy, and whose nomination had been rejected in the first vote.

The telecommunications portfolio, too, has yet to be filled.

Second Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili, who read out the list to parliament, said nominees for those two ministries would be announced shortly.

"With your permission, the Telecommunication Minister will be introduced very soon, in a few days, maybe [on January 10] or the day after," Khalili said. "The candidate for the Ministry of Energy and Water will also be announced very soon."

Not Household Names

The new list also includes three women, up from just one in both the outgoing cabinet and Karzai's initial list.

Afghan political analyst Zia Rafat told RFE/RL's Afghan service that many of the new nominees are little known.

"On the first list, we had candidates mostly affiliated with the traditional political parties allied with Hamid Karzai, which supported him during the presidential elections," Rafat said. "Now we have candidates who may be loyal to certain political parties but are not activists or prominent figures of traditional parties -- at any rate, they are not official members of the traditional parties."

Rafat noted that the new list included just to activists or leading figures from among the so-called mujahedin parties whose origins lie in the two decades of anti-Soviet or internecine warfare.

"It looks like Karzai has picked them up from the street," Reuters quotes one parliament member, Sayed Dawood Hashimi, as saying. The lawmaker went on to predict that only a small handful of the appointees would be approved.

The agency also quotes an international diplomat as saying that "one could hardly describe the new list as an improvement over the last list," adding that some appeared to be either "completely unknown" or "known politicians who were removed in the past for corruption."

Lawmakers must question candidates before voting can take place, a process that took more than a week for the original list of 24 nominees.

Parliament speaker Mohammad Yonus Qanuni said lawmakers should be able to hold a vote of confidence on the full list by January 14, Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

The fraud-plagued presidential elections in August and the rejection of the first cabinet list have been a severe political setback for Karzai.

The Afghan president is now eager to get his administration assembled before an international conference on Afghanistan is held on January 28 in London.

On January 4, Karzai ordered the legislature to cancel its winter recess so it could consider the new cabinet list.

Ordinary Afghans hope for a cabinet that will both stand up for them and heal ethnic and political rifts that emerged during the election campaign.

The United States and other foreign donors have been calling for a cabinet overhaul that will signal Karzai's dedication to fighting corruption and introducing badly needed reforms.

written by RFE/RL correspondent Claire Bigg based on Radio Free Afghanistan reports
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