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Circumstances for Karzi Are Fragile

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With less than three months left until Afghanistan's new Parliamentary elections, President Hamid Karzai has nominated another seven ministers for a vote of confidence from Afghanistan's parliament, leaving another six ministries to run without ministers. Of the seven candidates presented to the Afghan parliament on June 25, five passed and two failed to receive a vote of confidence. Karzai must now present another eight nominees to parliament before September, when parliamentary elections are slated to take place. But the question must be asked: is Afghanistan's president willing to do it?

It appears that for Karzai, staying in power -- no matter what the price -- is the top priority. Afghanistan's president is no longer popular in either Afghanistan or amongst the country's long-standing western allies. And today, with the dismissal of longtime Karzai ally General McChrystal and the upcoming military operation in Qandahar, internal shifts in Karzai's government will leave even more things unclear for the Afghan president. Circumstances for Karzai are fragile, and with the departure of US forces expected to begin next July, the Afghan president wants to end the country's war with the Taliban at any price. To achieve this, Karzai will rely on Pakistan and seek to make peace with the Taliban before the US shifts its attention away from Afghanistan.

Karzai's decision to nominate General Besmellah Mohammadi as Interior Minister who was Chief of Staff of the Afghan National Army, a position that Mohammadi has held since 2002, clearly demonstrates this. The replacement for Mohammadi, a former Northern Alliance commander, will certainly be a non-controversial figure who will not provoke Pakistan or the Taliban. This increasingly pro-Pakistan and pro-Taliban trend reached a new high on June 12, when Karzai made a deal, when under his presser Interior Minister Atmar and Intelligence Chief Saleh both resigned. Several Taliban fighters were released from prison -- a key demand from Pakistan -- as soon as the two government officials relinquished their posts.

It is clear that Karzai wants to arrive at an agreement and make peace with the Taliban -- a goal observers say would not have been easy to achieve if Atmar and Salah -- both staunch advocates of the US 'war on terror' -- remained in power. Afghan politicians who advised Besmellah Mohammadi to decline Karzai's offer to become the new Interior Minister, say removing a strong figure like Mohammadi will ensure that the crucial National Army post will be filled by someone favored by Karzai and his new Pakistani friends.

While Karzai appears to be close to attaining this goal, the situation for his government and the Afghan parliament is still precarious. Ordinary Afghans consider members of their country's parliament to be useless and corrupt. In the eyes of the public, MPs won their seats unfairly, bribing citizens to gain access to parliament in order to make more money or develop their influence in society. Karzai himself hates the current Afghan parliament and considers it an obstacle to the goals of his government. A number of MPs are widely recognized as former warlords and war criminals.

Will Afghanistan's upcoming parliamentary election produce the massive change that ordinary people are wishing for?

With MPs wealthy enough to purchase votes for themselves and their favored candidates, Afghanistan's potential for change is uncertain. It is even unrealistic.