Sat, Dec 25, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Afghan cabinet sworn in


Afghanistan's new Cabinet was being sworn in Friday, sealing the ouster of some high-profile warlords from the government, and President Hamid Karzai's spokesman said it reflected the leader's will to have educated people running the country.

Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim, a major Tajik strongman and the head of the northern alliance that helped the US oust the Taliban in 2001, was sacked in the Cabinet shuffle and replaced by his deputy, Abdul Rahim Wardak, as part of a crackdown on warlords in the government.

Southern warlord Gul Agha Sherzai was removed as public works minister.

Also dropped from the Cabinet was Sayed Hussain Anwari, who controlled a private army in the north and had been agriculture minister.

The new ministers -- 27 in all -- were to be sworn in during a ceremony at the presidential palace. They reflect Karzai's first major policy decision since his inauguration this month as Afghanistan's first democratically elected president.

Karzai has pledged to bring more professionalism to his government, and has embraced a constitutional decree that all ministers be college-educated and that they give up citizenship in any other country.

"This is a comprehensive step that takes Afghanistan to a new era in which people come to the Cabinet because they are capable of serving the Afghan people and because they are educated," said Jawed Ludin, Karzai's spokesman. "What matters in the next five years is that the people should see some change in their lives."

The Cabinet selections are seen as crucial to how this war-ravaged nation will deal with problems such a destroyed infrastructure, a stubborn Taliban and al-Qaida insurgency and a booming opium trade that accounts for three-quarters of the world's market.

Karzai named a relative unknown, Habibullah Qaderi, to head the new Counternarcotics Ministry to crack down on a multibillion-dollar drug trade that is flooding the world with cheap heroin.

Karzai wants a "holy war" against the drug trade, calling it a greater threat to the nation's future than the Taliban or al-Qaida.

The new Cabinet was announced late Thursday on state-run television.

Central Bank Governor Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi, a longtime Karzai ally, replaced Ashraf Ghani as finance minister.

Foreign Minister Abdullah and Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, both popular in the West, were kept on. Like many Afghans, Abdullah uses only one name.

Masooda Jalal, the only women to run in the October elections and an outspoken critic of Karzai's reliance on warlords, was named minister of women's affairs.

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