The Afghan parliament was expected to vote yesterday on three top security appointments at a key juncture amid an accelerating NATO troop withdrawal ahead of a 2014 deadline.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai made the nominations as part of a Cabinet reshuffle, which has been interpreted as a means to secure his powerbase before anointing a successor to stand for election in 2014, but parliamentary approval is needed.
The most controversial of the new appointments is Asadullah Khalid, Karzai’s choice for intelligence chief and the outgoing Borders and Tribal Affairs Minister, who has been implicated in human rights abuses.
“Today in an open vote we will vote for the new nominees. After the speeches and question and answer session, the vote will begin and the result will be announced,” parliament speaker Abdul Rahoof Ibrahimi told MPs.
Amnesty International has called on parliament to delay its vote to appoint Khalid, instead asking lawmakers to investigate “claims of his involvement in numerous alleged acts of torture and other grave human rights violations.”
The London-based group said Khalid has been linked to numerous cases of torture and unlawful killings in the past decade while serving as governor of Ghazni Province from 2001-2005 and of Kandahar from 2005-2008.
Lawmakers last month dismissed defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and interior minister Bismillah Mohammadi for allegedly failing to stop a Taliban resurgence and cross-border shelling from Pakistan.
Wardak, who had close relations with Western allies, has since been appointed senior presidential advisor and nominated Mohammadi as defense minister.
Former deputy interior minister Mujtaba Patang has been nominated to take over as interior minister.
Haji Din Mohammad, a former Mujahideen commander who fought against Soviet troops in the 1980s and a former governor of Kabul, is Karzai’s choice to replace Khalid as the borders and tribal affairs minister.