Afghanistan Announces Members of Cabinet
KABUL—Afghan President Ashraf Ghani unveiled his new cabinet on Monday, putting an end to months of political wrangling that threatened his plans for a government overhaul.
Mr. Ghani was inaugurated in September as part of a power-sharing deal with his election rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who became chief executive officer, a position that was created for him. The new president’s inauguration marked the country’s first democratic transition of power, with former President Hamid Karzai stepping down after 13 years in office.
Afghans first went to the polls last April to choose a successor to Mr. Karzai. Following a disputed election, it took half a year for the heads of the unity government to be sworn in, and more than three months of negotiations among coalition partners to agree on a list of ministers, a delay that hurt the new government’s reputation.
“When the two leaders said they wanted to establish a unity government, I thought it would never work out,” said Borhanuddin Safari, a 20-year-old university student in Kabul. “It’s good news that they announced the cabinet. After this we’ll finally be able to hold someone responsible for governing.”
At a ceremony held at the presidential palace on Monday, Mr. Ghani’s chief of staff presented the list of 25 ministerial nominees, as well as candidates for the country’s spy agency and central bank. All positions require parliamentary approval.
The new ministers are drawn equally from Mr. Ghani’s and Mr. Abdullah’s key campaign allies, whom the two leaders tried hard to accommodate. The cabinet’s announcement comes after they reached a consensus on the top security appointments after prolonged negotiations.
The Afghan National Army’s current chief of staff, Shir Mohammad Karimi, was nominated to be defense minister. Noorulhaq Uloomi—a former senior military official in the Soviet-backed government of President Mohammad Najibullah—was proposed as minister of interior. The country’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, will stay under the leadership of its current chief, Rahmatullah Nabil. He is the only serving head of department who will stay in his post.
Strong leadership in the three security ministries will be crucial this year as Afghan forces prepare to fight a still-robust Taliban insurgency almost on their own. U.S.-led troops formally ended their combat mission last month, transitioning to a mission that focuses on training Afghan soldiers and policemen. Some U.S. forces will retain a limited combat role, but they will only be able to intervene in support of their Afghan allies in exceptional circumstances.
The new cabinet will also have to demonstrate that Afghanistan, which depends on foreign aid to support the government’s budget, is embarking on a path to self-sufficiency. Donors will want to see revenue generation improved and corruption curtailed, both stated priorities for Mr. Ghani.
The formation of the cabinet will give new force to the government’s development and security agenda, said Mahmud Saikal, who on Monday was nominated as minister of water and energy.
“The international community will soon have a partner to work with,” Mr. Saikal said.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul welcomed the announcement in a statement.
“The United States looks forward to continued close cooperation with the government of Afghanistan in our shared pursuit of security, peace and prosperity for the people of Afghanistan,” the statement read.
Others cabinet nominees include Salahuddin Rabbani, Afghanistan’s former top peace negotiator and son of a former president, who was nominated as foreign minister. Ghulam Jilani Popal, a former head of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, was proposed as finance minister.
Afghanistan’s major ethnic groups are all represented in the proposed cabinet, which also includes three women, nominated to lead the ministries of information and culture, of higher education and of women’s affairs.
Sardar Mohammad Rahimi, who at 37 is the youngest ministerial candidate, said he was grateful the new administration would empower younger Afghans.
“They are full of energy, and will work hard for the prosperity of their country,” said Mr. Rahimi, who is in line to become Afghanistan’s next commerce minister.
Nafizullah Salarzai, the Afghan president’s spokesman, said Mr. Ghani will review the performance of all ministers in six months’ time--and is prepared to fire them if they underperform.
“Each of the ministers will have to be evaluated against the program introduced by the president, and they will be held accountable,” he said.