Sunday, October 19, 2014

New Afghan leaders face culture clash as they form Cabinet --- KABUL — Mohammad Mohaqiq thinks he’s owed a lot for throwing his support behind Afghanistan’s U.S.-brokered coalition government. The influential former warlord-turned-politician expects nothing less than a fifth of all Cabinet ministries and governorships for his ethnic group. -- “Twenty to 22 percent,” declared Mohaqiq in an interview at his opulent, heavily guarded house, “should go to those from the Hazara community,” -- But President Ashraf Ghani and his close aides have vowed to fill government positions based on skills and competence — not ethnic or regional quotas. -- The divide speaks to a clash of cultures and perspectives emerging within the two-week-old government as it embarks on the difficult task of forging a new bureaucracy in the weeks ahead. At stake is the future of this fragile nation, beset by economic woes and insecurity, as most foreign troops leave its soil by year’s end and the Taliban Islamist insurgency remains a potent threat. -- Ghani, an American-educated technocrat who cites Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson as his influences, wants to enact reforms and create a modern government run by experienced civil servants accountable to the people. But he has to contend with the high expectations of dozens of powerful individuals under him, some with nefarious pasts, who helped him attain the presidency. They are steeped in the traditional ways of Afghan politics, driven by ethnicity, patronage and enormous egos. -- Many Afghans question whether Ghani can effectively work with Abdullah Abdullah, his political rival who is now his partner in the power-sharing government. -- “This is the honeymoon period. The hard part will be when Ghani starts replacing ministers,” said a senior Western official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of diplomatic protocol. “He’s going to have to overlay Abdullah’s patronage network into a reform-minded agenda, and there’s going to be a natural rub. Ghani wants competent and qualified ministers and officials. Abdullah is more about the old school Afghan network.” -- The pair, diplomats and analysts said, will need to rein in the demands and ambitions of the outsized personalities in their respective camps in order to prevent the sort of divisiveness and corruption that have plagued the country in the past. -- “The problem in our system is not the leaders themselves, it’s their entourages,” said Haroon Mir, a political analyst. “There will be potential for conflict.” -- The unity government was sworn in Sept. 29 after months of political acrimony that threatened ethnic rifts and violence. Both Ghani and Abdullah claimed they won the elections to succeed President Hamid Karzai, who came to power after the U.S.-led intervention following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, which ousted the Taliban. The two men were eventually persuaded by Washington to form a partnership, with Abdullah holding the title of chief executive in the Ghani administration, equivalent to prime minister. -- Abdullah nearly boycotted the inauguration ceremony after a squabble over office space and whether he would speak at the event; he eventually did, after U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham helped settle the dispute. -- Since taking office in the country’s first democratic transfer of power, Ghani has sent a clear message of reforming the old order. He’s been working long hours, said Western diplomats. He signed two security pacts allowing roughly 12,000 U.S. and NATO troops to remain after 2014 to train and advise Afghan forces and stage counterterrorism operations. He also reopened an investigation into a fraud scandal at Kabul Bank, which collapsed in 2010 after nearly $1 billion disappeared, mostly deposits by foreign donors. -- But while they support both these actions, members of Abdullah’s circle in interviews expressed unhappiness with some of Ghani’s political appointments, underscoring the mistrust and lingering bitterness over the elections. They said that they weren’t consulted and that several positions, including national security adviser and a deputy minister of foreign affairs, were given to Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, and the one to which Ghani belongs. --- “The real test will come when Ghani has to fire one of these officials and who he wants to replace him with,” said the senior Western official. “Attah is a great example of where Ghani has to be careful in his reformist agenda. He wants to replace that guy for a host of reasons. But how much do you push before the whole thing is in danger of coming off the rails?” -- Read More, Washingtonpost,


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