Reuters08/05/2012By Hamid Shalizi [Printer Friendly Version]
KABUL - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Sunday he had accepted a vote by the country's parliament to dismiss his two top security ministers, but ordered both to remain in their jobs pending replacement, a move aimed at safeguarding fragile stability.
The fractious parliament voted on Saturday to remove Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi after a series of recent insurgent assassinations of top officials, as well as cross-border fire incidents blamed on Pakistan which infuriate many Afghan voters as well as politicians.
Their removal could be a blow to NATO plans to hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces before the end of 2014, as both positions are crucial to the 11-year war against insurgents as Western countries draw down their military presence.
Karzai, who chaired a Sunday meeting of Afghanistan's National Security Council, issued a statement thanking the pair for "their hard work and dedication", and saying replacements would be brought in.
Karzai can keep both ministers in their jobs for months if he chooses, and as he previously has done after parliamentary votes to reject his choices.
Those moves may have alienated lawmakers whose cooperation he needs to crack down on widespread corruption within his unpopular government in order to help guarantee up to $16 billion worth of aid promised by his Western backers.
Karzai's powerful finance minister, Hazarat Omar Zakhilwal, is also vulnerable as a result of accusations aired on Afghan television that he stashed away more than $1 million in overseas banks. An investigation was launched on Saturday by the country's top anti-corruption chief.
(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Rob Taylor; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)