Two weeks after his inauguration, and six weeks after being declared the winner in the Oct. 9 presidential race, President Hamid Karzai is encountering difficulties in forming a new Cabinet.
As a candidate and president-elect, Karzai was adamant that his Cabinet would be qualified, efficient, honest and, above all, of his own choosing. He promised there would be no more coalitions, and no more political trade-offs with warlords, drug lords, or regional and ethnic factions.
Yet as he worked on his Cabinet last week, he found himself restricted by Afghanistan's new Constitution and by strict conditions laid down in it by a constitutional grand assembly a year ago. In particular, the constitutional demands that Cabinet ministers have higher education and hold only Afghan citizenship, and not dual citizenship, have stalled his plans.
Speaking to Afghan journalists on Sunday, Karzai, 46, said that he had spent most of the past two weeks selecting his Cabinet, but that he had not finished.
"This is my decision, to go slowly, but to be precise and proceed wisely, so that we have a Cabinet that the people of Afghanistan are happy with," he said.
In fact, aides said, many of his current Cabinet members and some proposed additions had to be dropped because of the constitutional requirements.
At least five members of the current Cabinet whom Karzai had considered keeping do not have enough education, a presidential aide said. Among them are Minister of Commerce Sayed Mustafa Kazemi, Minister of Agriculture Sayed Hossein Anwari, Minister of Education Ahmad Mushahid and Minister of Public Works Gul Agha Sherzai. The defense minister, Marshall Muhammad Qasim Fahim, who was widely expected to be dropped from the Cabinet anyway, also does not have a college degree.
Zarar Ahmad, the governor of Parwan province and once a prospective Cabinet member, has been dropped for lack of a degree, another aide said.
Even more Cabinet members may have to be dropped because of the law on dual citizenship. Major Cabinet members with dual citizenship, often American, include Finance Minister Ahraf Ghani, Interior Minister Ahmed Ali Jalali, Information and Culture Minister Sayed Makhdum Raheen, and the ministers of reconstruction, urban development and higher education. The governor of the Central Bank would also be required to have only Afghan citizenship.
Karzai made it clear on Sunday that he would abide by the Constitution. "We have decided that anyone who joins the Cabinet must fill the condition of having higher education, because the law says so and we should respect the law," he said.
The article on dual citizenship allows a little more wiggle room for the president, since it gives parliament the final decision to approve or reject the appointment of a minister with dual citizenship. A parliament will not be elected for at least another six months, and so the onus is on Karzai to meet the basic demands of the Constitution.
Ministers would be asked to give up their foreign citizenship or others would be found who only had Afghan citizenship rather than provoke an embarrassment for the president if Parliament rejected the appointment later, one aide said.
"He wants to choose a Cabinet that will work for five years," he said of Karzai.
The conditions set by the Constitution are the result of intense rivalry among the main groups that have been vying for political pre-eminence in Afghanistan in the past three years. They can be roughly split into the mujahedeen, who fought in the wars of the past 20 years, and the Westernized technocrats, who often spent the past 20 years abroad, on the other. The mujahedeen sought to exclude many Westernized Afghans by banning anyone holding dual citizenship, while the technocrats sought to exclude the roughest mujahedeen by putting in the condition relating to higher education.