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Afghan lawmakers reject another group of Cabinet picks

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's Parliament on Saturday rejected more than half of President Hamid Karzai's second list of Cabinet nominees — including two of three women — dealing him a fresh political blow as his government struggles to face the growing Taliban threat.

The move complicates U.S.-backed efforts to build a government capable of combating corruption and pursuing reforms considered key to defeating the Taliban and its allies as the United States and its international partners send 37,000 reinforcements to intensify the war.

Washington and its allies have been pressing Karzai to get his second-term administration in place ahead of a Jan. 28 international conference on Afghanistan to be held in London. The conference is aimed at streamlining efforts to bolster the government.

But the 224 lawmakers present Saturday approved only seven of 17 nominees, including Karzai's longtime national security adviser Zalmay Rasoul as foreign minister. The lawmakers also confirmed a new justice minister and a woman as minister of work and social affairs/martyred and disabled.

Two other women nominated to the ministries of women's affairs and public health were rejected, along with Karzai's choices for higher education, commerce, transportation, public works, refugee and border and tribal affairs.

Two weeks ago, Parliament rejected 70 percent of Karzai's first Cabinet picks, forcing him to present a second list. The rejections leave Karzai without confirmed leaders for 11 of the 25 Cabinet posts.

Lawmakers complained that some of the nominees lacked the credentials to serve. Others claimed that some nominees are too closely aligned with warlords and were chosen to pay back political supporters who helped get the president re-elected.

Lawmaker Mohammad Ali Sitigh said the two female nominees who were rejected were well-qualified.

"Unfortunately we have some lawmakers who, even if they see a woman who is very active, talented and well-educated, still can't vote for a woman," he said.

Lawmakers meet again today to decide how to fill the remaining posts.

Military releases detainees' names

The U.S. military released the names of 645 detainees held at the main detention center at Bagram Air Base, giving up its long-held position that information about detentions could not be made public. The move was prompted by a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in September by the American Civil Liberties Union, whose lawyers had also demanded detailed information about conditions, rules and regulations at the prison. While the majority of the detainees at Bagram are Afghan, a small number are foreigners who are accused of fighting with the Taliban. Also held there are a handful of detainees captured in other countries, according to human rights lawyers and military detention officials.

Deaths

As of Saturday, 878 U.S. troops have died in the Afghanistan war. Identifications as reported by the U.S. military and not previously published:

Army Sgt. Lucas T. Beachnaw, 23, Lowell, Mich.; enemy attack Wednesday; Darya Ya.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason O. B. Hickman, 35, Kingsport, Tenn.; enemy attack Jan. 7; Forward Operating Base Salerno.

Marine Sgt. Christopher R. Hrbek, 25, Westwood, N.J.; combat Thursday; Helmand province.

Marine Staff Sgt. Matthew N. Ingham, 25, Altoona, Pa.; combat Monday; Helmand province.

Marine Lance Cpl. Mark D. Juarez, 23, San Antonio, Texas; combat Jan. 9; Helmand province.

Marine Cpl. Jamie R. Lowe, 21, Johnsonville, Ill.; combat Monday; Helmand province.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Meinert, 20, Fort Atkinson, Wis.; combat Jan. 10; Helmand province.

Marine Cpl. Nicholas K. Uzenski, 21, Tomball, Texas; combat Monday; Helmand province.

Army Spc. Kyle J. Wright, 22, Romeoville, Ill.; enemy attack Wednesday; Kandahar Air Field.

Afghan lawmakers reject another group of Cabinet picks 01/16/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 16, 2010 9:38pm]

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