Afghan president moves to replace holdover Cabinet members

President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani inspects an Afghan National Army Special Operations Command formation with the commanding general Maj. Gen. Abul Sayed Karim during a visit to Camp Commando, Afghanistan, Oct. 6, 2014.


By CARLO MUNOZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 1, 2014

Note: This article has been corrected.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, whose openness toward a continued U.S. and international presence in his country stands in stark contrast to the attitude of his predecessor, has announced plans to replace Cabinet members he inherited from former President Hamid Karzai.

The announcement, in a nationally televised address Sunday evening, follows a spate of insurgent attacks in the capital and in volatile areas of the south and east. The violence has raised concern within the country about the new unity government’s ability to provide security as the NATO-led combat mission rapidly winding down.

The failure of Ghani and his chief executive officer, Abdullah Abdullah, to form a Cabinet until now also has worried international backers of the unity government, formed in September under strong U.S. pressure after months of acrimonious election disputes.

On Monday, Ghani and Abdullah left Kabul to attend a series of meetings in Europe where they will be seeking renewed commitments of international support. Their first stop is a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels Tuesday that is to formally start the post-combat advise and assist mission, Resolute Support.

The Afghan leaders then move on to London for a conference on Afghanistan. That event “will provide a platform for the government of Afghanistan to set out its vision for reform and for the international community to demonstrate enduring solidarity and support for Afghanistan,” according to the British government website.

“They will be all new faces,” Fayeq Wahedi, deputy spokesman for the presidential palace, said regarding the new Cabinet picks.

In a thinly veiled shot at Karzai’s penchant for filling his Cabinet with loyalists and political allies, Ghani said all ministerial candidates would be judged on their professional credentials before being selected. He also mandated that at least four of the Cabinet positions be filled by women.

Except for a handful of appointments Ghani and Abdullah have already made, deputies will replace acting ministers while new candidates are vetted by parliament. That process could begin as soon as next week, with administration officials planning to have a full Cabinet in place no later than the end of December, Wahedi told Stars and Stripes on Monday.

Ghani’s announcement was preceded Sunday by news that Kabul’s police chief had resigned. Although officials said he had not given a reason, the capital has been rocked by a series of attacks against high-profile Afghan and foreign targets in recent weeks.

However, on Monday, Kabul police spokesman Hashmatullah Stanakzai confirmed that Gen. Mohammad Zahir would remain Kabul’s top police officer. He said senior ministry officials refused to accept Zahir’s resignation and ordered him back to work.

Zahir had reportedly informed the ministry of his intent to leave his post a week ago, telling ministry leaders “he did not want to do the job [anymore],” Stanakzai had told Stars and Stripes on Sunday.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Ghani also planned to replace officials in five particularly troubled provinces over the next two to three months. The AP report quoted presidential spokesman Nazifullah Salarzai.

Wahedi said that only changes at the Cabinet level were planned for now but that he was not privy to any discussions regarding the removal of provincial leaders.

“What we have so far heard and seen, it is just the Cabinet” Wahedi said.

Afghan forces have suffered heavy casualties this year as international forces have withdrawn. The continuing Taliban attacks in the provinces and more recently in the capital have fueled distrust of the Afghan security forces’ ability to secure the country without foreign assistance.

The capital has been rocked by repeated attacks and suicide bombings over the past month. A Taliban assassination attempt against Zahir at Kabul police headquarters on Nov. 9 kicked off the most recent wave of violence in the city.

Saturday, the South African head of a U.S.-based aid organization, his son and daughter, and an Afghan employee were killed in a complex attack against the group’s headquarters in western Kabul.

On Thanksgiving day, the Taliban launched two attacks, one of which killed a British Embassy employee and an Afghan national working with the embassy. 

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

Twitter: @NatSecCarlo

Correction: This story has been corrected.