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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 September, 2003, 02:03 GMT 03:03 UK
Karzai shuffles defence ministry

By Paul Anderson
BBC correspondent in Kabul

The Afghan President Hamid Karzai has announced a reshuffle in the powerful defence ministry designed to bring to it greater ethnic representation.

The reshuffle is a key plank in a programme to disarm Afghanistan's many warlords and their private armies later this year.

President Hamid Karzai
Mr Karzai has been trying to rein in powerful governors and warlords
It has taken President Karzai months to decide how to reshuffle his defence ministry.

Observers say what he has done is to ignore the recommendations of some outside advisors calling for more civilian leadership, instead appointing a super list of top generals serving as defence ministry deputies.

But they say that in doing so the president has balanced the ministry's ethnic composition in line with the multi-ethnic army he is creating.

The defence minister, Mohammed Qasim Fahim, an ethnic Tajik who led the anti-Taliban northern alliance and who has emerged as a powerful block of President Karzai's authority, holds on to his job.

But he has seen his first deputy and chief of staff replaced.


Presdient Karzai paid tribute to those who have lost their jobs, saying they had served with skill and loyalty to the independence of Afghanistan in the face of the Taleban and the al-Qaeda fighters they hosted.

His reshuffle comes a day before he leaves on a ten-day tour of the United States, Canada and Britain.

Reforming the defence ministry is seen as a prerequisite to a key programme in Afghanistan's post-Taleban reconstruction.

The country is trying to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate tens of thousands of war lords and their private militias.

It remains to be seen how the principal sponsors of this $200m project will view the reshuffle but they may feel not enough has changed.

This is the first stage of what President Karzai says will be a restructuring of government ministries and departments across the board.

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