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Afghan parliament again rejects the majority of Karzai's Cabinet picks

Afghanistan lawmakers refuse 10 of 17 nominees, a sign of President Hamid Karzai's political weakness. The move could complicate international efforts to help the country.

January 17, 2010|By Alex Rodriguez

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — The Afghan parliament Saturday once again rejected the majority of President Hamid Karzai's choices for his Cabinet, a rebuke likely to unnerve an international community that desperately wants the Afghan leader to forge ahead with reform plans.

The rejection of 10 of the 17 nominees means that Karzai will have to go back to parliament a third time to gain approval for his Cabinet choices, and raises questions about his political strength. After he presented his initial slate of 24 nominees Jan. 2, lawmakers rejected 17 of them.

Critics of Karzai's initial nominees said several had ties to warlords. Some lawmakers complained that many on the president's latest list lacked the experience needed to take on Cabinet posts.

Among the seven approved by parliament were Zalmai Rassoul, Karzai's longtime national security advisor, who will become foreign minister, and the nominees for the justice and economy ministries.

The West would like to see Karzai assemble an administration that puts Afghanistan on track toward improved political stability, particularly after the tumult of the presidential election last fall that was overshadowed by widespread allegations of vote fraud and other irregularities.

Karzai won reelection to a second term despite the invalidation of a third of the votes cast for him. He avoided a runoff when former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai's primary rival, said he doubted that the election would be free and fair, and pulled out of the race.

Karzai's political foundation remains weak, and his inability to get a majority of Cabinet nominees approved renewed questions about the level of his support.

"Karzai knows that each time more than 50% of his Cabinet choices are rejected, it's a signal that he's got a problem," said Haroun Mir, director of the Afghanistan Center for Research and Policy Studies.

Nations that channel military and economic aid to Afghanistan want Karzai's Cabinet selection completed in time for an aid and security conference Jan. 28 in London. Leaders of those countries will want to know whether the Cabinet's makeup raises concern about corruption before committing to financial pledges.

With Saturday's vote, Karzai still must get 10 nominees approved by parliament before the end of the month.

Nominees rejected Saturday included Karzai's picks for the ministries of transportation, higher education, public works and commerce.

Two women whom Karzai had tapped for the women's affairs and public health ministries also were turned down. A third, Amina Afzali, was approved as the minister of martyrs and the disabled. Karzai has made it a goal to put more women in high-profile posts.

Special correspondent M. Karim Faiez contributed to this report.

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