CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai said Sunday that he will respect the Afghan Parliament’s decision to remove two key ministers from office, a dramatic change in leadership during a pivotal stage in NATO’s 11-year war.
Afghan lawmakers voted Saturday to impeach Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Besmillah Mohammadi, both of whom have worked on the United States’ most costly — and most delicate — security initiatives.
Their impeachment, which comes during a key stage of NATO’s troop and civilian drawdown, marks a sharp articulation of public discontent, but leaves a number of unanswered questions about the fate of Afghanistan’s two most prominent ministries.
Lawmakers justified the impeachment by lobbing a number of criticisms at Wardak and Mohammadi, including accusations of corruption and their unwillingness to respond to cross-border rockets fired from Pakistan.
Although Karzai vowed Sunday to replace the two ministers, he praised their service and asked both men to remain in their positions until their successors are named. In the past, impeached officials have remained in such ‘‘acting’’ roles for several years at Karzai’s request.
On Sunday, Karzai tried to assure the United States and other allies that he would not leave vacancies in the ministries responsible for overseeing the war and Afghanistan’s transition to self-control of its security. Many of the country’s lawmakers have said that Karzai is not responding quickly enough to their demands for governmental change and that his inaction threatens to stymie the body’s substantial reforms.
Wary that Karzai might not act swiftly in response to the Parliament’s vote, Afghan lawmakers were outspoken in their insistence that new ministers be named promptly.
‘‘If he really wants to implement the law, he should introduce the two new ministers soon because we are tired of having acting ministers in the government for years,’’ said Sharifullah Kamawal, a member of Parliament.
In a statement, Karzai called Wardak and Mohammadi ‘‘true sons of Afghanistan who . . . spent many years in helping develop a new system in Afghanistan.’’ The statement added that the Afghan government ‘‘will not only decorate them with highest state medals of honor, but would ask them to continue as experienced and dedicated persons to serve their nation and their country in other capacities within the government.’’
Late last month, Karzai spoke publicly about the need to reduce corruption within the Afghan government — a vaguely worded pledge that lawmakers are hoping will become concrete with the dismissal of Wardak and Mohammadi.