With time running out, Karzai says he will select Cabinet

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai, facing a grand council that made little progress in choosing the country's government, said Monday he will select his own Cabinet and that time had run out for delegates to choose a new parliament.

Karzai told the 1,650 delegates to select four or five representatives from each of Afghanistan's nine regions to stay behind in Kabul after the council, or loya jirga, adjourns, perhaps on Tuesday.

Those remaining delegates will appoint a commission to establish the legislature because time had expired for the full council to complete the job.

Although the loya jirga's agenda never was clear, delegates widely assumed they would select a new president, approve his Cabinet and decide on the form and makeup of a new legislature to run the country for 18 months until new elections. The only decision made so far has been selecting Karzai as president.

Even before Karzai's speech Monday, delegates complained the meetings had bogged down in lengthy speeches about local and peripheral issues. Some suspected the loya jirga commission hoped to run out the clock so power brokers could choose the Cabinet and legislature, parceling out positions to different ethnic and special interest groups.

The many delegates upset by Karzai's comments included former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

"The Cabinet should be decided by the loya jirga," said Rabbani, who stepped aside as a presidential candidate and supported Karzai.

As delegates streamed out of the giant tent where the loya jirga meets, eastern Nangarhar province Gov. Abdul Qadir took the stage and told them to ignore Rabbani ---- the first open disagreement among Afghan leaders since the council meeting opened Tuesday.

'All just to fool people'

Karzai's economic adviser Ashraf Ghani told reporters that key Cabinet posts likely would be announced Tuesday but would not require approval by loya jirga delegates.

However, many delegates disagreed.

"This is all just to fool people," delegate Omar Zakhilwal said. "We have not done what we are here to do, nothing. We are here to choose a Cabinet."

An interim Cabinet was cobbled together in Germany last year at the U.N.-organized meeting of Afghans after the Taliban's collapse after a U.S. bombing campaign. That meeting installed Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun supported by the United States, as chairman of the interim administration but gave the three top posts of defense, interior and foreign ministries to ethnic Tajiks.

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