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New Afghan Cabinet Finally Announced

Defense Ministry nominee Sher Mohammad Karimi
Defense Ministry nominee Sher Mohammad Karimi

The office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced nominees for the country's cabinet after months of delays following a disputed election.

Ghani's chief of staff, Abdul Salam Rahimi, announced the 25 cabinet nominees on January 12 at a ceremony in Kabul that was attended by the president.

Ghani did not speak at the event.

The so-called "unity" cabinet includes three women ― nominees to head the higher education, information and culture, and women's affairs ministries.

The list also includes nominees for the governor of the central bank and director of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan's intelligence service.

The cabinet still needs to be approved by parliament, and there was no immediate word on the timing of a vote.

In keeping with a promise by Ghani, no former government minister was nominated. However, current NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil was nominated to retain the same position.

Former President Hamid Karzai's government was dogged by allegations of widespread corruption and cronyism.

Ghani and his election rival, Abdullah Abdullah, now in the new No. 2 post of chief executive, have spent months wrangling over the makeup of the new cabinet.

The delays have raised concerns over whether the unity government could survive, let alone govern effectively.

Ghani was sworn into office on September 29, after negotiations produced a power-sharing deal with Abdullah following a runoff election marred by fraud allegations.

The tense election standoff dragged on for months before the breakthrough.

Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank official, has promised a reformist, corruption-fighting government made up of technocrats and free from the patronage that marked the government of his predecessor Karzai.

However, the makeup of the government reflected the balancing act to include candidates favored by the two camps.

The four most prominent positions ― the defense, interior, finance and foreign portfolios ― were evenly divided between nominees seen as close to Ghani or Abdullah.

Defense Ministry nominee Sher Mohammad Karimi and the nominee for finance minister, Ghulam Jilani Popal, are seen as close to Ghani.

The nomination for the powerful Interior Ministry post went to Nur ul-Haq Ulumi, who endorsed Abdullah during the election campaign.

Foreign Ministry nominee Salahuddin Rabbani is also associated with Abdullah, a former foreign minister.

Many government institutions have been all but paralyzed for a year amid the protracted election crisis and uncertainty over whether the withdrawal of most foreign troops in December 2014 ― when NATO formally ended its combat mission ― would lead to more violence by Taliban insurgents.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP