Karzai presents new Afghan Cabinet list

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KABUL (AP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government on Saturday presented to parliament a list of nominees for a new Cabinet that keeps U.S. favorites in several posts critical to the war and reconstruction.

The list also jettisons the heads of two ministries embroiled in corruption probes.

Karzai has been under intense international pressure to cleanse his government of corruption and mismanagement. But he also needs to mollify domestic political allies, including warlords, who have kept him in power.

Holdovers from the current Cabinet include the defense, interior and finance ministers. The list did not include a nominee for foreign minister; Karzai has said he will make that nomination after the international conference on Afghanistan to be held in London in late January.

First Vice President Mohammad Fahim told parliament that those nominated for the new Cabinet were “ministers who were experts and did a good job.”

But many parliament members expressed strong concern about the new names, suspecting they would do the bidding of regional warlords.

“My fear and that of many MPs is that they maybe are the puppets of those warlords so that despite that they are considered civilized people and more educated people, they cannot implement their own ideas and initiatives,” said Khaled Pashtun, a parliament member from Kandahar.

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.

Karzai wants to replace Muhammad Ibrahim Adel, the current 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. Chakari, who has denied involvement, said two of his employees were being investigated in connection with missing money.

Also Saturday, the international forces in Afghanistan reported that a U.S. serviceman was killed Friday by a roadside explosive in southern Afghanistan. Further details were not given.

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