Karzai to present new Afghan Cabinet

Ministers favored by West will stay

By Laura King
Los Angeles Times / December 19, 2009

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KABUL, Afghanistan - President Hamid Karzai is poised to unveil a new Cabinet that retains a number of respected ministers with the West’s stamp of approval, but also at least one notorious former warlord, aides disclosed yesterday.

Karzai’s ministerial lineup, which could be announced as soon as today, is being watched closely by the United States and its Western allies as an indicator of whether he is serious about cracking down as promised on rampant corruption in his government.

Corruption is many Afghans’ chief grievance against their leaders, pervading nearly all aspects of daily life. Karzai was sworn in last month for a second five-year term after an election clouded by massive vote-rigging, and has been put on notice since by the West that he must act decisively to clean up his administration.

A list of likely Cabinet members circulating yesterday included at least half a dozen ministers who have received the public blessing of US and other Western officials - mainly those most closely associated with security, or with other ministries through which large amounts of foreign aid are funneled.

Nearly half of the current Cabinet lineup of 25 is being asked to stay on. The rest apparently are being dismissed, including at least two ministers embroiled in multimillion-dollar scandals.