KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced his choices for top government security posts on Monday, part of a Cabinet overhaul that some analysts said better positions him to extend his political influence after his tenure ends in 2014.
The government rejected such speculation, calling the Cabinet reshuffling part of a normal process, but Karzai’s choices are another signal to parliamentary opposition figures that he would find ways to consolidate power with or without their approval.
Karzai, Afghanistan’s ruler since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, is under mounting domestic and international pressure to reform his administration, which has been widely criticized for corruption and poor governance. He also faces multiple security challenges, including a reinvigorated insurgency, as US combat troops begin their exit ahead of a 2014 withdrawal deadline.
Karzai’s choice to be his new defense minister is former interior minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, a 10-year veteran of his administration whom lawmakers unseated in August.
The Parliament also voted no confidence in General Abdul Rahim Wardak, a close US ally who had long headed the Defense Ministry.
Parliament disqualified the two ministers for failure to stop protracted cross-border shelling of villages in eastern Afghanistan. Kabul blames the Pakistani army for the mortar attacks, which Pakistan has largely denied, although it recently said they were aimed at fleeing militants.
Mohammadi, the Defense Ministry nominee, is a former Tajik commander from the main faction of warriors whom the United States helped in toppling the Taliban from power. The Tajik bloc is seen as one of the vital factions that will help hold together a government once the United States and its NATO allies leave Afghanistan.
The international military coalition in Afghanistan said Monday that one of its service members died in a bomb attack in southern Afghanistan. NATO officials did not provide details of the incident or the nationality of the dead force member. It was the fourth international soldier killed in Afghanistan so far this month.
On Monday, Karzai also nominated veteran police official Mushtaba Patang as interior minister; Assadullah Khalid, the border and tribal affairs minister, as head of the country’s spy agency, the National Security Department; and former Kabul governor Azizullah Din Mohammad for Khalid’s old post.