Karzai Names New Cabinet, Ousts Warlords

Karzai won the country’s first democratic presidential election Oct. 9, and his choice of cabinet has been closely observed to see whether he will be able to usher in a period of stability after more than two decades of conflict.

As expected, Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim, a prominent Tajik warlord and head of the northern alliance that helped the United States drive the Taliban from power in 2001, was replaced by his deputy Abdul Rahim Wardak, according to an announcement read on Afghan state television, reported the Associated Press.

Wardak is a Pashtun who received military training in the United States and made a name for himself as a commander in the 1980s battle against Soviet Union occupation. He fled Afghanistan after it fell into civil war.

Interior Minister Ali Ahmad was kept on, as was Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah — both popular in the West.

Southern warlord Gul Agha Sherzai was removed as public works minister.

Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official credited with securing large commitments of foreign aid, was replaced by long-time Karzai ally and Central Bank governor, Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi.

Ismail Khan, a powerful western warlord whom Karzai removed as governor of Herat earlier this year, was named water and energy minister.

Massouda Jalal, the lone woman among 17 candidates who ran against Karzai in the presidential election, was appointed minister of women’s affairs. Two more women are expected to get cabinet seats, Reuters reported.

Karzai created a new ministry for anti-narcotics, naming engineer Habibullah Qaderi to the post.

The opium and heroin trade has boomed since the Taliban was driven from power, raising fears that Afghanistan may become a narco-state run by corrupt officials.

Karzai was expected to weed out military figures and bring in people with the education and experience needed to reassure Western donors. Under Afghanistan’s constitution, written earlier this year, cabinet members must have higher education degrees, not just fighting experience, according to Reuters.