Afghan parliament votes to oust key ministers

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan parliament voted Saturday to dismiss the country's defense and interior ministers, a move that threatens to throw the country's security apparatus into confusion as foreign forces withdraw.

The vote demanded the dismissal of two of President Hamid Karzai's key security lieutenants: Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, one of the top Afghan officials most trusted by Washington, and Interior Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi.

The votes of no confidence come at a critical time in the war, when Afghan police and soldiers are increasingly taking over responsibility from departing international troops, who are scheduled to leave Afghanistan or move into support roles by the end of 2014.

Separately, the U.S.-led coalition said two NATO service members were killed Saturday in an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan. No other information was released. So far this year, 268 U.S. and NATO troops have died in the war.

Legislators faulted the defense and interior ministers for what they view as the government's weak response to cross-border attacks that Afghans blame on the Pakistani military, with lawmakers asking why Afghanistan has not launched a military response. The parliamentarians also asked the ministers about allegations of corruption within their ministries and alleged security lapses that led to recent assassinations of top officials.

The parliament then passed a measure to remove Wardak by a vote of 146-72. A separate vote of no confidence on Mohammadi passed 126-90. Both measures needed 124 votes to pass.

"Both ministers are disqualified from their positions and we request His Excellency President Karzai to introduce new ministers for these positions as soon as possible," Abdul Raouf Abrahimi, speaker of the lower house of parliament, said after the vote.

It is unclear if the two will immediately leave their posts. Parliament occasionally flexes its muscle to thwart Karzai's policies or appointments, but the constitution places most power in the president's hands.

Karzai's office issued a three-sentence statement acknowledging that Article 92 of the Afghan Constitution gives the parliament the authority to disqualify ministers. Karzai's statement did not express any support or regret for the no confidence votes, saying only that the president would "make decisions about the disqualified ministers" after he meets with his national security team today.

In past no-confidence votes, Karzai has simply kept other ministers in their jobs in an acting capacity and dragged out the process of nominating replacements.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul declined to comment on the parliament's action, referring questions to the Afghan government.

Afghan parliament votes to oust key ministers 08/04/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 4, 2012 10:43pm]

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