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Afghanistan: Top Security Official Resigns Amid Controversy

Ahmad Ali Jalali at a 28 September press conference After months of speculation about the resignation of Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, the country's top law-enforcement official's departure from President Hamid Karzai's cabinet was officially announced on 27 September.

"I will not work as Interior Minister anymore. Maybe there are reasons for this and maybe not, but one of the main reasons is that I wish to resume my academic research," Jalali was quoted by Kabul-based Tolu Television on 27 September as saying.

In a press statement released by the Interior Ministry on 27 September, Jalali denied reports that his resignation stemmed from conflicts with Karzai over the appointment of governors, other senior Interior Ministry officials, and counternarcotics-related issues.
Jalali added that Karzai appointed governors and other officials "based on the national interest" of Afghanistan and he is "more committed than anyone else in the fight against drugs."

"All these rumors are baseless, and I seriously reject them," Jalali said in the statement. He added that Karzai appointed governors and other officials in the Interior Ministry "based on the national interest" of Afghanistan and he is "more committed than anyone else in the fight against drugs."

Karzai appointed Jalali as his interior minister in January 2003, replacing Taj Mohammad Wardak, who now leads an opposition political party. After the conclusion of the 2001 Bonn agreement, Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, currently the leader of the main opposition coalition, which includes Wardak's party, was selected interior minister but, following the June 2002 Loya Jirga he stepped down as part of a compromise to balance the ethnic representation of the Afghan cabinet in favor of Pashtuns. During Wardak's tenure, criminal activity increased, particularly in Kabul, and he was criticized for his handling of a student protest in November 2002 at Kabul University.

Jalali was generally regarded as a forceful factor in organizing Afghanistan's national police force and in spearheading the country's counternarcotics programs. As an outsider who had lived in the West for many years (he is the former director of the Washington-based Afghan-language service at the Voice of America), he did not have an easy relationship with the former mujahedin personalities, many of whom served either as governors or were obstacles in attempts by Kabul to exercise its authority throughout the country.

Given that the Interior Ministry in Afghanistan controls the police force, the bulk of counternarcotics forces, and manages the country's provincial governors, it is considered -- at least in theory -- the most powerful organ of the Afghan government. Some in Kabul have even argued that the ministry be split in two: with one in charge of security affairs and the other in charge of administrative matters such as the management of the provinces.

Since Jalali's departure from Karzai's cabinet has been rumored for so long, there has been a lot of speculation about who would be his replacement. Some of the people thought to be under consideration for the post include former Herat Province Governor and current Minister of Power Mohammad Ismail Khan; Karzai's national security adviser Zalmay Rasul; Jalali's deputy, General Mohammad Daud; and even Karzai's political rival, Qanuni.

If Jalali did in fact resign due to differences with Karzai about counternarcotics and provincial governor appointments, his replacement will be watched closely by Afghans and foreign supporters of the Afghan government on his actions regarding those two crucial issues.

For more news about events in Afghanistan, see RFE/RL's webpage "News and Features on Afghanistan"