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Afghan President Names Cabinet

December 23, 2004

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ President Hamid Karzai chose a new Cabinet on Thursday, heeding calls to sideline warlords from top positions _ including the defense minister _ and creating a new post to oversee the fight against opium production.

Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim, a prominent Tajik warlord and the head of the northern alliance that helped the United States drive the Taliban from power in 2001, was replaced by his deputy, Abdul Rahim Wardak, according to a decree by Karzai that was announced on Afghan state television.

The new Cabinet was announced on state-run television. Several government officials leaked the list of Cabinet members to The Associated Press hours before the official announcement.

Wardak is a Pashtun who made a name for himself as a commander in the 1980s fighting Soviet occupation, then fled abroad as the country descended into civil war.

Southern warlord Gul Agha Sherzai was also removed from the Cabinet, where he had been public works minister.

Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official credited with securing large commitments of foreign aid, was replaced by Central Bank Governor Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi, a longtime Karzai ally. Ghani was likely to take over as chief of Kabul University, the officials said.

Foreign Minister Abdullah and Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, both popular in the West, were kept on.

However, at least one regional strongman is joining the government. Ismail Khan, the powerful western warlord whom Karzai removed as governor of Herat earlier this year, was given the position of water and energy minister.

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