President Hamid Karzai swore in his new Cabinet yesterday, hailing the body as Afghanistan's best hope for a better future and urging its new members to set aside ethnic and regional...
KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai swore in his new Cabinet yesterday, hailing the body as Afghanistan’s best hope for a better future and urging its new members to set aside ethnic and regional loyalties to work for the good of the nation.
Karzai administered the oath to 25 of the 27 new ministers in a closed-door ceremony. Two other new ministers will be sworn in later.
“The Cabinet that we swore in will be loyal to Afghan law and the national interests,” Karzai said after the ceremony. “I have chosen the ministers, and if they don’t perform I will ask them to leave.”
Karzai has pledged to bring more professionalism to his government and embraced a constitutional decree that all ministers be college-educated. He added yesterday that his ministers must show loyalty to the country, as opposed to any of the country’s many factions.
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“No minister will serve as the minister of an ethnic group. No minister has come to claim a place here on behalf of a political party or a region. Every minister is a representative of Afghanistan and the interest of the Afghan people,” he said.
The president announced his selections Thursday after weeks of delay, during which he said he told candidates they would have to renounce any foreign citizenships.
During more than two decades of war, many members of the nation’s political class lived abroad and acquired U.S. or British passports. Any reluctance to give them up has been criticized as revealing a lack of faith in Afghanistan’s future.
Karzai dropped several prominent warlords in the Cabinet shuffle, including former Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim, a major Tajik strongman and the head of the Northern Alliance that helped the United States oust the Taliban in 2001. Foreign Minister Abdullah and Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, both popular in the West, were kept on. Like many Afghans, Abdullah uses only one name.
However, at least one regional strongman is joining the government.
Ismail Khan, the powerful western warlord whom Karzai removed as governor of Herat this year, was given the position of water and energy minister.
One name not in the Cabinet was Yunus Qanooni, the former education minister who came in second to Karzai in October elections. Karzai called Qanooni “a friend” and said he left him out of the Cabinet so he could start a national political party.
The selections are seen as crucial to how the country deals with problems such as a destroyed infrastructure, a stubborn Taliban and al-Qaida insurgency and a booming opium trade that accounts for three-quarters of the world’s market.