Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hamid Karzai cabinet attacked as pro-warlord

AFGHAN legislators have complained that President Hamid Karzai's proposed cabinet is inexperienced and beholden to warlords - opposition that threatens to slow the reform Western allies say is essential to beating the Taliban.

The US embassy made only neutral comments after the nomination list was presented to parliament over the weekend, but gave no assessment of the nominees. Britain issued a more positive assessment.

Mr Karzai's list was seen as a test of his commitment to cleaning up corruption in his government, anger over which fuels the Taliban insurgency. The Afghan leader has come under mounting criticism over his stewardship since the fraud-marred August election and the decision by US President Barack Obama to send 30,000 more troops to try to break the Taliban momentum.

Mr Karzai kept US favourites in several posts critical to the war and reconstruction - including the ministries of defence, interior and finance - and jettisoned the heads of two ministries embroiled in corruption probes.

"If this cabinet gets a confidence vote from the parliament of Afghanistan, it would not be able to put medicine on the injuries of the Afghan people," Gul Pacha Mujedi, a parliamentarian from Paktia province, said yesterday.

Khaled Pashtun, a legislator from Kandahar, added: "My fear and that of many MPs is that they maybe are the puppets of those warlords, so that despite that they are considered civilised people and more educated people, they cannot implement their own ideas and initiatives."

A presidential spokesman said Mr Karzai made his decision in consultation with international officials and Afghan political figures but was beholden to neither.

"He has listened to the international community and various political parties, but the final decision was made by the President," spokesman Waheed Omar said, adding that Mr Karzai was confident the new team would implement reforms to root out corruption.It is not clear when parliament will vote on the nominees, and the dismay expressed by legislators indicates long and heated argument before approval. That would keep political tensions high and frustrate international allies impatient for reform. "We look forward to the lower house of parliament carrying out their duty to vet and approve candidates who will contribute to Afghanistan's progress towards institutional reform, security, and prosperity," said US embassy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

Britain's mission in Kabul "is upbeat about the cabinet nominations and thinks that this is a government that we will be able to do business with", embassy spokesman Paul Norris said.

The Australian

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