Speaking during the ceremony, Karzai said his government’s goal is to lead war-weary Afghanistan out of its troubled past.
“I promise you that I will fulfill my mission to bring peace to Afghanistan,” Karzai said. During the ceremony he spoke in his native Pashtu and in Dari, Afghanistan’s most popular languages.
“Our country, as a result of the long war, has been distracted. We need hard work from all Afghans,” he said. “We should put our hands together to be brothers and friends. Forget the painful past.”
In recent decades Afghanistan has been riddled by conflict, including an invasion by the Soviet Union in the 1980s and deadly tribal infighting during the early 1990s. The militant Taliban regime ruled the country from 1996 until early this month, when it surrendered control of its last Afghan territory.
Following his own inauguration, Karzai swore in 29 cabinet ministers, including two women — a group often brutally repressed during the Taliban’s rule.
During the ceremony, Karzai embraced former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, the last Afghan head of state to be recognized by the international community. Rabbani has led the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance since he was driven from office during the Taliban takeover of Kabul in 1996. Today, Rabbani formally signed over his power.
The interim government, selected by tribal leaders during a United Nations-sponsored conference in Bonn, Germany early this month, is expected to rule for six months. After that, an Afghan loya jirga, or tribal council, will meet to plan a new two-year government and begin work on a new constitution.
Some 2,000 people witnessed the ceremony in Kabul’s Interior Ministry hall, news reports said. The few women who attended wore headscarves, but not the full-body burqa mandated by the Taliban.
Among the foreign diplomats and other guests in attendance was Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S.-led military campaign that worked with Afghan tribal fighters to bring down the hard-line Taliban regime.
Foreign troops, meanwhile, are still at work within Afghanistan’s borders. British peacekeeping forces patrolled today’s ceremonies, part of an international security force expected to assist the Afghan government for the next six months.
U.S. forces continue to search the White Mountains for signs of alleged Sept. 11 attack mastermind Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday said additional U.S. and anti-terror coalition troops will be sent to the area near al-Qaida’s suspected hideouts in the Tora Bora complex to assist in the hunt for bin Laden and his followers.