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Afghan President Karzai Sworn In, Appoints Cabinet

In a speech following his swearing-in, Karzai named 14 Cabinet-level ministers and three vice presidents to the new administration. In naming the members of his new Cabinet, Karzai addressed a key concern of many delegates that the new administration be fairly balanced between the nation’s many ethnic groups.

The Cabinet composition is considered crucial to the new administration’s ability to unite the country’s rival tribes and lead Afghanistan out of 23 years of war.

Some members of the UN-appointed interim government, including the foreign and defense ministers, were re-assigned to the 18-month transitional administration. Karzai, who also headed the interim government, named one of his top advisers, Ashraf Ghani, as finance minister.

Several top posts went to members of the Tajik-controlled Northern Alliance of opposition groups that fought the Taliban militia and swept into Kabul upon the fall of the Islamic fundamentalist group.

The three vice president posts went to some of the country’s other ethnic leaders including the Pashtun governor of Jalalabad, Haj Qadir, and the Hazara leader Karim Khalili.

The grand assembly approved the new Cabinet through a show of hands, to which Karzai responded with, “Okay, you have approved it,” and then thanked the assembly for its quick decision-making.

None of the country’s influential warlords were given Cabinet positions, but Karzai said that many of them have promised to work for peace and security in the battle-scarred country.

The new president stressed to the assembly the importance of a strong and respected central government. One of the difficulties facing the previous interim government was an inability to assert authority outside Kabul, the Afghan capital.

“If Afghanistan does not have a strong central government, nothing will happen,” Karzai said.

The assembly, which started a day late and continued three days longer than planned, closed with prayers. The delegates were not able to choose a new mini-parliament but decided Karzai could appoint a commission that would resolve the issue.

Following the new administration’s 18-month term, Afghanistan plans to hold a constitutional convention and nationwide elections.

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