- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan Trying to resolve the ethnically contentious issue of his Cabinet, Afghan leader Hamid Karzai yesterday reappointed the interim government's defense and foreign ministers for an 18-month transitional administration and named a Pashtun governor as interior minister.
Mr. Karzai also tapped his top adviser, Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official, to be finance minister.
The appointments addressed a key concern of many delegates to the loya jirga, or grand national assembly that the top three Cabinet posts were held by ethnic Tajiks from the Panjshir Valley, one-time members of the Northern Alliance of opposition groups that fought the Taliban militia.
The loya jirga immediately approved Mr. Karzai's Cabinet appointments by a show of hands. A short time later, after opening a day late and running three days over, the loya jirga a historic meeting based on Afghan tradition ended.
In his speech to the 1,650 delegates last night, Mr. Karzai named 14 ministers. He also appointed three deputy presidents and a chief justice to the country's highest court.
"If Afghanistan does not have a strong central government, nothing will happen," Mr. Karzai said. The interim administration, which took office in December, has faced problems exerting its authority outside Kabul.
The Cabinet positions, already a thorny issue when the loya jirga convened, became more so in recent days as the meeting progressed.
Earlier this week, Mr. Karzai said he would appoint the ministers and had the power to do so. But he backtracked, asking for more time after the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the loya jirga, under a U.N.-brokered agreement, must approve Cabinet choices.
Reappointed as defense minister was Mohammed Fahim, the prickly Panjshiri who controls many of the Northern Alliance forces that have been in Kabul since the alliance swept into the capital in November. Gen. Fahim was also named a deputy president.
Also reappointed as foreign minister was Abdullah Abdullah, Gen. Fahim's fellow Tajik, who had been the Northern Alliance's main public face during the final weeks of its U.S.-backed campaign to retake Kabul from the Taliban regime.
The other Panjshiri who had held a top Cabinet office, Younus Qanooni, was named education minister. But shortly afterward, Mr. Qanooni, the former interior minister, refused the education post and any position in the new government. An aged Pashtun, Taj Mohammed Wardak, was named interior minister a key post because of the ongoing fight against al Qaeda and Taliban fugitives.

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