Sunday, January 21, 2018

Karzai moves to replace Afghan security chiefs

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai moved to replace the country's intelligence chief and the ministers of defense and interior Wednesday, the first step in what senior government officials said was a planned wider Cabinet shakeup aimed at solidifying the president's power before elections and the drawdown of foreign forces.

The president also is trying to shore up his shaken security team as his administration struggles to build an army and police force in the face of a resurgent Taliban as the United States and other foreign forces begin to leave. Those coalitions' training efforts have increasingly become a target for insurgents — NATO said Wednesday that three more of its service members were killed by an Afghan wearing an army uniform in the latest in a string of attacks by Afghans on international trainers. Two U.S. defense officials said the dead were not Americans and that the shooting took place in Uruzgan province, where the only non-American coalition forces are Australian.

Karzai's latest reshuffle of top officials, if it goes through, appeared to be an attempt to stack the Cabinet and electoral commission with his allies in a bid to retain power behind-the-scenes after his final five-year term ends and the international troops withdraw in 2014.

An Afghan official close to the president's office told the Associated Press the head of the country's election commission, the attorney general and the finance minister are expected to be among the top positions to be part of the shakeup. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, the AP said.

Nothing is final until there is an official announcement from Karzai, and the president could still change his nominees or leave the government largely untouched. But experts noted that while rumors of Cabinet shakeups are common, Karzai may use the window provided by the parliament's sacking of his defense and interior ministers to make wider changes.

However, any changes must be confirmed by parliament, and it is unclear whether Karzai would be able to muster the necessary support from lawmakers to push his nominees through.

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