x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

At least eight Afghan Cabinet nominees rejected

The Afghan parliament has dealt the president Hamid Karzai a new setback, rejecting at least eight out of 17 nominees on his second slate of Cabinet choices.

The Afghan parliament has dealt the US-backed president Hamid Karzai a new setback, rejecting at least eight out of 17 nominees on his second slate of Cabinet choices. The process was expected to take much of this afternoon as yellow paper ballots were being tallied one-by-one. But initial results showed the 224 lawmakers present had rejected eight nominees while approving six. Those approved included one of three women candidates and Mr Karzai's longtime national security adviser, Zalmay Rasoul, who will be foreign minister. Mr Karzai's choices for the higher education, commerce, transportation, public works, refugee and border and tribal affairs portfolios were rejected along with two other women nominated for the posts of women's affairs and public health.

The US and other countries contributing troops and aid have pushed Mr Karzai to get his second-term administration in place ahead of a January 28 international conference on Afghanistan to be held in London but the mixed results meant another delay. Afghan lawmakers earlier this month rejected 70 per cent of Mr Karzai's picks for his second-term Cabinet - a major blow to the president's effort to assemble a team that can focus on badly needed reforms in his country, in its ninth year of war.

The president offered a new list that omitted the earlier candidates, but lawmakers still complained that some of those named lacked the credentials to serve in the 25-member Cabinet. Others claimed that some nominees are too closely aligned with warlords, or were picked to pay back political supporters who helped get the president re-elected. A third female candidate, Amina Afzali, was approved for the portfolio of Work and Social Affairs/Martyred and Disabled in what was likely to be seen as a victory for the president's efforts to place more women in high government posts in the traditionally male-dominated society. The only woman on his current team - Minister of Women's Affairs Husn Bano Ghazanfar - was rejected in the initial vote by parliament on January 2.

Parliament did approve his retention of US-backed incumbents in the key portfolios of defence, interior, finance and agriculture in the initial January 2 vote. The second vice president Karim Khalili named 16 ministerial candidates a week ago. The administration subsequently nominated Abdul Qadus to the telecommunications portfolio. Mr Karzai has not yet submitted a name to replace Ismail Khan, an infamous warlord who currently is the minister of water and energy and was rejected in the first vote. *AP