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AFGHANISTAN & PAKISTAN

Afghan president reveals Cabinet nominations, ending long delay

Afghanistan's leader nominates new ministers of defense, interior, foreign affairs and finance

After more than 100 days in office, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s administration on Monday unveiled its long awaited list of Cabinet nominations.

The 25 names include new leaders for the four most influential ministries -- defense, the interior, foreign affairs and finance -- and ends a long period during which the posts were held by caretaker officials, which some Afghans say contributed to violence and political instability.

Among the names announced were Salahuddin Rabbani, a former ambassador to Turkey, who was nominated as foreign minister. Rabbani also served as head of the High Peace Council -- the government body tasked with leading negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban-led insurgents -- after his father, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated in a suicide bombing.

Sher Mohammad Karimi, who has served as army chief of staff since 2010, was nominated to be defense minister. Noor ul-haq Ulomi, a former parliamentarian who served as governor of the southern province of Kandahar two decades ago under Afghanistan’s last communist president, was nominated as interior minister, with oversight of the Afghan police.

The defense and interior posts, in particular, were watched closely by U.S. military officials, who still have 10,600 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO mission focused on training Afghan forces and conducting counter-terrorism operations.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said it welcomed the nominations.

“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 said.

The names were announced by Ghani’s chief of staff, Salam Rahimi. Each appointment is subject to parliamentary approval.

Jelani Popal, who previously served as director-general of the president’s Independent Directorate of Local Governance, a powerful body that helps appoint top provincial officials, was nominated as finance minister.

Disputes between Ghani and his former election rival, Abdullah Abdullah, now serving as chief executive in a unity government, were said to have held up the announcement of Cabinet nominations, which Ghani had originally promised would take place within 45 days of his Sept. 29 inauguration.

The interior ministry post was a major point of contention, said sources with knowledge of the matter who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. They said the list announced Monday included names proposed by Ghani, Abdullah and their deputies, although Ghani had the final say on each post.

For many, the most surprising name on the list was Schahzaman Maiwandi, an Afghan-German who served on the Ghani campaign’s media team. Maiwandi, who is in his late 30s and hails from the southern province of Kandahar, is the nominee for minister of urban development.

The list also included three female nominees: Khatera Afghan for the Ministry of Higher Education, Aya Soltan Khairi, for the Information and Culture Ministry and Najiba Ayoubi for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

Although the announcement will likely be a relief to Afghans who waited more than three months for a Cabinet to be named, two posts remain vacant: attorney general and head of the local governance directorate. Some reports suggest that the directorate could be dissolved.

Latifi is a special correspondent.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

4:25 a.m.: This article has been updated to include reaction from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

This article was originally published at 3:23 a.m.

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