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Hamid Karzai accepts dismissal of ministers

06 August, 2012

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KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai accepted on Sunday a vote by the country's parliament to dismiss his two top security ministers, but ordered both to remain in their jobs pending replacement, a move aimed at safeguarding fragile stability.

The fractious parliament voted on Saturday to remove Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi after recent insurgent assassinations of senior officials, as well as cross-border fire incidents blamed on Pakistan, an inflammatory issue for many Afghans.

While the ministers remain in place for now, the uncertainty could complicate NATO plans to hand security responsibilities to Afghan forces before the end of 2014, as both positions are crucial to the 11-year war against insurgents as Western countries draw down their military presence.

Karzai, who chaired a Sunday meeting of Afghanistan's National Security Council, issued a statement thanking the pair for "their hard work and dedication", and saying replacements would be brought in according to the law.

Karzai can keep both ministers in their jobs for months if he chooses, and as he previously has done after parliamentary votes to reject his choices.

Those moves may have alienated lawmakers whose cooperation he needs if he is to crack down on widespread corruption within his unpopular government in order to help guarantee up to $16 billion worth of aid promised by his Western backers.

Karzai's powerful finance minister, Hazarat Omar Zakhilwal, is also vulnerable as a result of accusations aired on Afghan television that he stashed away more than $1 million in overseas banks. An investigation was launched on Saturday by the country's top anti-corruption chief.

The dismissal of the veteran Wardak, defense minister for close to eight years, did not cause as much uproar within Karzai's inner circle as that of Mohammadi, an ethnic Tajik and former anti-Soviet mujahideen commander who oversees the police force.

Many of the government's Western supporters believe Mohammadi, who was army chief of staff from 2002 to 2010, has been an effective reformer of the notoriously corrupt police, but after only two years in the job has not had enough time.

End.

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