Kabul, Afghanistan Lawmakers approved President Hamid Karzai's choices for key ministries Thursday in a Cabinet vote that gave the U.S.-backed leader a boost as he tries to curb an intensified insurgency more than four years since the Taliban's ouster.
But five of Karzai's nominees, including the incumbent information and economy ministers and the sole woman, were rejected. The president will nominate new candidates for those remaining ministries, then a fresh vote will be held. No date has been set.
The vote was the first by elected lawmakers to endorse a Cabinet following landmark parliamentary elections last year.
Twenty of Karzai's 25 candidates were approved by majority votes from the 248-member parliament, including new Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, a former Kabul University professor who went into exile during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Spanta replaces the high-profile Abdullah Abdullah, the country's envoy since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban regime.
The three other key posts - defense, interior and finance - also went to Karzai nominees in a strong showing seen as an endorsement for the president's efforts to rebuild Afghanistan after almost three decades marred by Soviet occupation, civil war and Taliban rule.
"This proves that Karzai has strong support within the parliament because he got his nominees into the key ministries," said Qassim Akhghar, an analyst who heads an Afghan press watchdog group.
Spanta's predecessor, Abdullah, had close ties with Washington, but his ouster had been long anticipated because of an apparent falling out with Karzai about how the ministry was handling foreign affairs, observers said.
Ties with Pakistan, in particular, have deteriorated sharply in recent months amid allegations of cross-border infiltration by Taliban militants.
Karzai will rely heavily on his new Cabinet to deal with the challenges his country faces. These range from reining in Taliban militants who wield immense influence in remote parts of the country to improving ties with neighbors such as Pakistan.