- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, facing a grand council that made little progress in choosing the country's government, said yesterday that he will select his own Cabinet and that time had run out for delegates to choose a new parliament.
Mr. Karzai told the 1,650 delegates to select four or five representatives from each of Afghanistan's nine regions to stay in Kabul after the council, or loya jirga, adjourns, perhaps today.
Those remaining delegates will appoint a commission to establish the legislature because time expired for the full council to complete the job.
Although the loya jirga's agenda was never clear, delegates widely assumed they would select a president, approve his Cabinet, and decide on the form and makeup of a legislature to run the country for 18 months, until new elections. The only decision made so far is the selection of Mr. Karzai as president.
Even before Mr. Karzai's speech yesterday, delegates complained that the meetings had bogged down in lengthy speeches about local and peripheral issues. Some suspected that the loya jirga commission hoped to run out the clock so power-brokers could choose the Cabinet and legislature, parceling out positions to different ethnic and special-interest groups.
The many delegates upset by Mr. Karzai's comments included former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.
"The Cabinet should be decided by the loya jirga," said Mr. Rabbani, who stepped aside as a presidential candidate and supported Mr. Karzai.
As delegates streamed out of the giant tent where the loya jirga meets, eastern Nangarhar province Gov. Haji Abdul Qadir took the stage and told them to ignore Mr. Rabbani the first open disagreement among Afghan leaders since the council meeting opened a week ago.
Mr. Karzai's economic adviser Ashraf Ghani told reporters that key Cabinet posts would likely be announced today but would not require approval by loya jirga delegates.
But many delegates disagreed.
"This is all just to fool people," delegate Omar Zakhilwal said. "We have not done what we are here to do, nothing. We are here to choose a Cabinet."
An interim Cabinet was cobbled together in Germany last year at a U.N.-organized meeting of Afghans after the Taliban's collapse after a U.S. bombing campaign. That meeting installed Mr. Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun supported by the United States, as chairman of the interim administration but gave the three top posts of Defense, Interior and Foreign ministries to ethnic Tajiks.
That angered many of Afghanistan's majority Pashtuns, who believed they were marginalized because most Taliban were Pashtuns. Many Pashtuns who support Mr. Karzai complained that the Tajik clique prevented him from wielding power.
The most contentious post is the Defense Ministry, held by ethnic Tajik Mohammed Fahim. Pashtuns have complained of discrimination by the army and the security forces, and international monitors here say Mr. Fahim has threatened some loya jirga delegates who oppose him.
However, Mr. Fahim and his intelligence chief, Mohammed Arif, are backed by the United States because of their role in the U.S.-led war on terror in Afghanistan.

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