Karzai moves to replace Afghan security chiefs

Karzai administration struggles to build an Army and police force in the face of a resurgent Taliban.

Kabul: Afghan President Hamid Karzai moved to replace the country`s intelligence chief and the ministers of defence and interior, the first step in what senior government officials said was a planned wider Cabinet shake-up 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 US and other foreign forces begin to withdraw.

Those coalition`s training efforts have increasingly become a target for insurgents, NATO said yesterday 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.

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.

"With the elections coming, with the transition ... It is a time for him to re-strengthen his team," said Martine van Bijlert, an expert at the Afghan Analysts Network.

"I think we could be seeing a major reshuffle. ... The question is always: Can he make it stick?"

An Afghan official close to the President`s office told a news agency the head of the country`s election commission, the attorney general and the finance minister were expected to be among the top positions to be part of the shake-up.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief the media.

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.


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