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Archive for Saturday, December 19, 2009

New Cabinet: Reform but no clean sweep

December 19, 2009

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— Facing huge pressure to reform, President Hamid Karzai is submitting a Cabinet lineup to Parliament today that keeps U.S. favorites in several posts critical to the war and reconstruction — a nod to American demands for trusted hands to help manage the conflict.

The new list also reflects Karzai’s need to serve a second master — political allies, including warlords, that kept him in power.

World leaders have threatened to hold back troops and development aid if Karzai does not cleanse his government of corruption and mismanagement.

But some Afghan lawmakers said the lineup looked too much like the existing one.

They said it signaled more of the same from a government that has been criticized as ineffective and corrupt. These lawmakers also expressed concern that a few of Karzai’s new nominees — they did not say whom — were chosen because of links to political bosses or warlords.

Several of the new appointments have previous government experience and good educational credentials. It’s unclear, though, whether they will clean up the bribery and graft that has become business as usual in the government. As with Karzai’s first Cabinet, the new slate of proposed ministers is a collection of Western-educated Afghans and former mujahedeen or their nominees.

“Nothing has changed,” said Mirahmad Joyanda, a member of parliament from Kabul.

He and other members of parliament point to Karzai’s decision to retain Water and Energy Minister Ismail Khan, a notorious warlord who holds political sway in the Herat region of western Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch has accused Khan of war crimes during Afghanistan’s past quarter-century of conflict.

Joyanda was at the presidential palace on Thursday when Karzai spoke to about 100 lawmakers about various issues, including his Cabinet picks. When he heard the names, Joyanda said he became discouraged and walked out of the meeting.

“Nothing is new,” he said. “Half of the Cabinet remains. The other half is introduced by warlords.”

According to the list, however, Karzai wants to jettison the heads of two ministries embroiled in corruption probes.

Karzai wants to replace Muhammad Ibrahim Adel, the minister of mines. Earlier this month, two U.S. officials in Washington alleged that Adel took a $20 million bribe to steer a $3 billion copper mining project to a Chinese company. The minister denied taking any bribes, saying the agreement was approved by the Cabinet and that Karzai was also aware of it.

The president also wants to replace Sediq Chakari, who heads the Ministry of Hajj and Mosque. Allegations surfaced recently that money was pocketed at the ministry.

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