Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

Between Professionalism and Accommodation: The slow progress on the new cabinet

Ali Yawar Adili Thomas Ruttig 21 min

More than three months after the inauguration of President Ashraf Ghani, a cabinet has not yet been formed. The appointments were delayed and disrupted by the dispute about the election outcome and the ensuing standoff, which had beset the country for more than two months. However, almost a month after the impasse was resolved, Ghani is moving slowly to complete the cabinet list. AAN’s researcher Ali Yawar Adili and co-director Thomas Ruttig look at the new appointments. They report that the new appointments have so far come only from Ghani’s camp and the completion of the cabinet and appointments to other high profile and provincial posts has been held up by intra-factional struggles within Ghani and Abdullah’s camp as well as their need to accommodate other political forces. Biographical background on the new appointees is annexed. 

Cabinet meeting held on 1 June presided by President Ashraf Ghani from a separate room through VTC camera due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Palace Facebook page, 1 June 2020.

When Muhammad Ashraf Ghani was sworn in for his second term as president on 9 March, he said he would postpone cabinet appointments for two weeks. This was to allow negotiations with his rival, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, who had held a rival inauguration on the same day. However, as the political impasse over the election result continued, he started appointments on 30 March, almost three weeks after his inauguration, but halted them again on 5 April after a call by the mediators to allow for an agreement with Abdullah first. 

Ghani resumed appointments on 13 May, before the signing of the power-sharing agreement. This (as well as Abdullah’s silence on the appointments) was indicative of the power-sharing agreement being imminent. It was finally signed on 17 May (AAN reporting here and here). 

The agreement signed by Ghani and Abdullah on 17 May stipulates that Abdullah will “introduce” candidates for half the cabinet posts, including for some key ministries, and that provincial governors will be appointed based on “a rule agreed upon by the two sides.”  It is not clear yet whether the rule has been put in place. On any case, no gubernatorial appointment has been made since then. 

However, the appointments continue to be slow, apparently retarded by intra-factional consultation within both Ghani’s and Abdullah’s electoral teams. So far only nine ministers and the governor of the country’s central bank have been nominated (who still require parliamentary confirmation) and two state ministers (who do not require it) have been appointed. Of these twelve appointments, only six came after the agreement was signed, and the candidates exclusively were from Ghani’s own camp or newly co-opted. (1)

There are only two female candidates (Safi and Hamidi) so far. Ghani told the Atlantic Council on 11 June that he intended to appoint two more women.

Table 1: New ministerial nominations

NoNameMinistryDate of appointmentEthnicityParliamentary confirmation needed?
1Abdul Hadi ArghandehwalMinistry of Finance31 March 2020Pashtunyes
2Ahmad Zia SerajNDS1 April 2020Tajikyes
3Muhammad Hanif AtmarMinistry of Foreign Affairs4 April 2020Pashtunyes
4Ghulam Bahauddin JilaniState Ministry for Disaster Management13 May 2020Tajikno 
5Zia ul-Haq AmarkhelState Ministry for Parliamentary Affairs13 May 2020Pashtunno 
6Ahmad Jawad OsmaniMinistry of Public Health31 May 2020Tajikyes
7Mahmud KarzaiMinistry of Urban Development and Land1 June 2020Pashtunyes
8Ajmal AhmadiDa Afghanistan Bank2 June 2020Tajikyes
9Hasina SafiMinistry of Women’s Affairs6 JunePashtunyes
10Taher ZuhairMinistry of Information and Culture7 June 2020Hazarayes
11Rangina HamidiMinistry of Education10 June 2020Pashtunyes
12Harun ChakhansuriMinistry of Mines and Petroleum 11 June 2020Pashtunyes

Table by AAN (see short biographies in the annex)

Ghani has also made some other high-profile appointments, including six provincial governors (no appointment of provincial governor since the agreement though).

Table 2: Other high profile and provincial appointments

NoNameGovernment agencyDate of appointmentEthnicityCabinet member?
1Muhammad Shaker KargarChief of staff of president’s office30 March 2020Uzbekyes
2Muhammad Daud SultanzoyKabul mayor1 April 2020Pashtunyes
3Sayed Abdul Wahid QataliHerat provincial governor3 April 2020Tajikno
4Fazel Mahmud FazlyGeneral Director of Administrative Office of President9 April 2020Pashtunyes
5Muhammad Zia HamdardDaikundi provincial governor14 May 2020Hazarano 
6Nur Muhammad KohnawardGhor provincial governor14 May 2020Tajikno 
7Muhammad Ajmal ShahpurLogar provincial governor14 May 2020Pashtunno
8Sayed Ala RahmatiBamyan provincial governor14 May 2020Sayedno
9General Muhammad Nabi AhmadzaiZabul provincial governor14 May 2020Pashtunno
10Nur ul- Haq UlumiSpecial representative for good governance19 May 2020Pashtunyes
(This table has been updated on 8 August 2020 to include no 3, the new governor of Herat who was missing in the original text.)

See a brief background of the governors in footnote 8 of this AAN report.

Political accommodations

On 2 April, Ghani had stated that he wanted to introduce cabinet members who have “popular roots, political weight, political commitment and management [skills]” (AAN reporting here). This was in the context of the political impasse with Abdullah, but he might continue to follow this pattern. 

Ghani’s nominees so far include individuals who fulfil those criteria. At the same time, they largely reflect attempts to accommodate political forces, mainly on the Pashtun side, who did not support him during the election (AAN reporting here). This is particularly the case with a group of influential politicians who gathered around former president Karzai who had actually been pushing for Ghani’s removal by an interim government in the context of the US-Taleban talks and had established themselves as an unofficial third force between the feuding Ghani and Abdullah camps. More recently, they played a role in resolving the Ghani-Abdullah electoral-political standoff. 

People in Karzai’s home province, Kandahar, where the family wields considerable influence, had felt alienated by low representation under the National Unity Government (NUG). The province had a low turnout in the 28 September 2019 presidential election (AAN reporting here). 

The Karzai group lost their particular fight, but not without gains: The Ghani-Abdullah agreement includes a number of new bodies which allow them to exert substantial influence (AAN analysis here). In addition, ministerial posts are now offered to their allies and favourites. 

A second group Ghani is accommodating is that of former presidential hopeful Atmar whose ticket, however, had fallen apart before the polls. 

Consequently, there are two candidates from Kandahar (a member of his family and Hamidi) and two from Laghman, Atmar’s home province (Atmar himself and Safi) among the nominees.

Legal issues 

Meanwhile, parliament has been calling on the government to introduce the cabinet members (not only those already nominated but also those still missing) to the Wolesi Jirga for vote of confidence). For example when, on 8 June, the administrative board of the Wolesi Jirga met Ghani, speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani stressed the introduction of cabinet members (see here). Ghani promised that he would end the status of “acting” ministers and all ministerial nominees would be introduced to the Wolesi Jirga for confirmation (see the news from the Palace here). On 25 August 2019, almost a month before the presidential election, Kabul daily Etilaat-e Roz published a detailed report saying that Ghani had never been able to complete his cabinet during the NUG; there were always some acting ministers. It said that there were now 15 ministries, including those dealing with security run by acting ministers. AAN had also reported that, for almost a year following the formation of the NUG, more than half of the cabinet members were in acting capacity, which put their legitimacy into question. This had been the accumulative result of the delay in appointments or their introduction to the Wolesi Jirga for confirmation or the Wolesi Jirga’s rejection of certain nominees after Ghani declared all the ministers as acting when he assumed the presidency in September 2014. 

Media quoted the Wolesi Jirga’s second secretary, Hujjatullah Kheradmand, saying that Ghani had told the Wolesi Jirga delegation to meet Dr Abdullah to accelerate the appointment process (media report here). Ghani also seems to be working for the quick confirmation of his nominees. On 7 June, he discussed this issue as well as a draft law regulating (probably) the government’s relations with parliament and the development of mechanisms for its coordination with the National Assembly through videoconference with the new state minister for parliamentary affairs, Zia ul Haq Amarkhel (see the news on the Palace Facebook page). 

The constitution, in article 72, sets criteria for who can become a minister, on which the Wolesi Jirga has to judge (text of the constitution here). The nominees have to

  • hold only the citizenship of Afghanistan; 
  • hold a higher education degree and have work experience and a good reputation; 
  • not be less than 35 years of age; and 
  • not convicted of crimes against humanity, a criminal act or deprivation of civil rights by a court. 

According to this article, if a ministerial candidate has dual citizenship, the Wolesi Jirga will have the right to approve or reject the nomination. 

Dual citizenship of nominees has often been a problem in the past, under both Karzai’s and Ghani’s presidencies. The parliament might again take issue with dual citizenship of some of the current candidates. For instance, the US embassy post about Rangina Hamidi called her “Afghan-American.” 

Another controversial issue is the growing number of state ministries, the prototype of which is the office of the State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs. It had been established in December 2005, based ‎on approval number 35 of the High Council of Ministers within the framework of the office of the administrative affairs of the president and secretariat of the council of ministers, started working in January 2006 but was only approved by parliament one year later, after a long controversy and a tight vote (94:79). (2) It was later promoted to an independent unit in early 2008 (see the official background on the ministry’s website here). 

According to article 77 of the constitution, ministers should perform their duties as heads of administrative units within the framework of the constitution as well as other laws prescribed. The ministers should be responsible to the president and the Wolesi Jirga for their specified duties. According to paragraph 4 of article 90, establishment, modification and/or abrogation of administrative units fall under the authorities of the Wolesi Jirga. According to article 64 of the constitution (section 20), the president has the authority to establish commissions to improve the administration of the country in accordance with the provisions of the law. This means that the president is authorised to establish only commissions, not authorised to create new administrative units (ie, a ministry). It seems that the parliament has , so far, officially approved only the state ministry for peace. 

Ghani has, however, established several other state ministries and quasi-ministerial posts: 

  • In October 2015, Ghani decided to upgrade the directorate of disaster management to the State Ministry for Disaster Management and appointed Wais Barmak as the minister (he was later replaced) (media reports here and here).
  • On 21 Hut 1395 (11 March 2017), Ghani issued a decree creating the office of State Minister for Security Sector Reform and head of the high board for overseeing the appointments of senior officers of Defence and Security forces. He appointed Amrullah Saleh who resigned after three months (he is the first vice-president now) and the ministry no longer exists (AAN reporting here). 
  • On 30 Hamal 1396 (19 April 2017), Ghani issued a decree establishing a new office under the title of “State Ministry for Tourism Affairs” and appointing Ghulam Nabi Farahi as the minister. 
  • On 29 Jaddi 1397 (19 January 2019), Ghani issued a decree (no 132) establishing the State Ministry for Martyrs and Disabled Affairs. This was a few months after he had established the national support authority for martyrs and people with disabilities based on decree 75 dated 15/7/1397 (7 October 2018) and separating the deputy Ministry for Martyrs and Labour from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (see the official background in English here and Dari here).
  • In June 2019, Ghani established the State Ministry for Peace and appointed his former chief of staff, Abdul Salam Rahimi, as the minister as well as special envoy for peace. The ministry was approved by the Wolesi Jirga on 30 December 2019 as per a constitutional requirement that any new administrative unit (for example, a district or a ministry) should be approved by the Wolesi Jirga (AAN reporting here).
  • In June 2019, Ghani also established the State Ministry for Human Rights and International Relations and appointed former chair of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission Dr Sima Samar as the minister (media report here). 

This growing number of state ministries allows the president to use them to award allies or co-opt political figures by appointing them as state ministers without subjecting them to confirmation or rejection by the parliament, unlike normal ministers. 

Concerns have also been raised with regard to the future ministers’ real authority. AAN heard from sources that follow the candidate nominations that Atmar and Arghandehwal have already raised concerns that they do not have the authority to appoint people in their respective ministries. Atmar, for example, is under pressure from his own allies to appoint them in the ministry but Ghani’s general director of administrative office of the president, Fazel Fazly, has been exercising control over the appointments. 

(Missing) appointments for the new peace council

On the peace front, there has not been any reported progress in the establishment of the High Council of National Reconciliation (HCNR). Ghani-Abdullah power-sharing agreement stipulates that Abdullah as the HCNR chairman will have five deputies, including his two running mates, and that the HCNR will have two sections: the leadership committee and the general assembly. The size of these bodies has not been specified. (3) Abdullah held a press conference on 30 May, 13 days after the agreement, and announced the official launch of the council. This happened before any progress in the appointment of three other deputies and the formation of the HCNR’s leadership committee and general assembly. In practice, Abdullah alone and sometimes with his two deputies – sometimes some of his electoral allies, see for example Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, daughter of Sayed Mansur Naderi, and deputy leader of Wahdat-e Mardom party Muhammad Nateqi in a 27 May meeting with EU ambassadors here) – have been attending meetings. 

So far Ghani has been seen at the steering wheel regarding the peace process as he reciprocated the Taleban’s Eid ceasefire and continued reduction in violence, which, he said in his 11 June 2020 address to the Atlantic Council, had allowed his government to release 3,000 Taliban prisoners. He also said, “My colleagues and I have made the decision to release an additional 2,000 prisoners within a short period”. Ghani also said that the date and venue for the intra-Afghan negotiation would be specified in the coming week (media report here). This happens while Abdullah’s HCNR which is supposed to develop an official national policy and modality for peace and the negotiations with the Taleban is not there yet. 


High-ranking appointments are always scrutinised over whether they reflect the ethnic, regional and political composition of the country and the influence of its major political forces. However, it is still too early have a clear picture about whether this is the case.

So far, most nominees come from Ghani’s side aimed at mainly awarding his electoral allies and loyalists and co-opting some rival figures. Some of the high-ranking ones such as Atmar indeed have what Ghani had earlier termed “political weight, political commitment and management [skills].” At the same time, their nominations, at least partly, reflect Ghani’s need to accommodate political forces that had opposed him vehemently during (and over) the election process. They have taken the offer of ministerial posts, and Ghani might have their political support for the time being. It seems Ghani also needs to respond to the call by international donors for formation of an “inclusive government” given his weak mandate (measured by his valid votes of around 0.9 million; AAN reporting here) from across the country with a population of 32.9 million (as per the new estimate by the National Statistics and Information Authority released on 1 June, see here). He still needs to appoint candidates introduced by Abdullah and his allies based on the political agreement. However, in the longer run, he will probably find it difficult to manage a politically diverse set of cabinet members that includes high profile figures with their own future (including presidential) ambitions. The more powerful nominees’ need (also on Abdullah’s side) to bring ‘their people’ into further position might compromise, again, his declared will to fight corruption. 

Abdullah’s camp has not come forward with its own proposals so far. This might reflect the degree of difficulty to which he needs to dole out the posts to his own electoral-political allies, given the heterogeneity of his political camp, which not only is supported by various, often conflicting, factions of his own Tajik-dominated political party, Jamiat-e Islami, but also by forces from the Hazara and Uzbek communities.

Edited by Thomas Ruttig

(This report has been updated on 8 August 2020 to include, in table 2 (“Other high profile and provincial appointments“), the new governor of Herat who was missing in the original text.)

(1) Those appointed since the political agreement are listed below: 

  • On 19 May, the administrative office of the president (AOP) announced (in English here and Dari here) that Ghani had appointed Nur ul-Haq Ulumi as special representative of the president for good governance. It said that in addition to this duty, he would also lead the subcommittee of the High Council of Rule of Law and Governance and would be a member of the cabinet and High Council of Rule of Law. This seems to be an award by Ghani to Ulumi who withdrew his candidacy in Ghani’s favour. It is similar to the position Ghani had established for Ahmad Zia Massud in 2014 as part of his electoral commitments. 
  • On 31 May, the administrative office of the president announced that Ghani had nominated Dr Ahmad Jawad Osmani as minister of public health and that he would be running the ministry as acting minister until his confirmation by the Wolesi Jirga. 
  • On 1 June, the administrative office of the president announced that Ghani had nominated Mahmud Karzai as the minister of urban development and land and that he would run the ministry as acting minister until his confirmation by the Wolesi Jirga. 
  • On 2 June, the AOP announced that Ghani had nominated Ajmal Ahmadi as governor of Da Afghanistan Bank and that he would be running the bank as acting governor until his confirmation by the Wolesi Jirga.
  • On 10 June, the AOP announced that Ghani had nominated Rangina Hamid as minister of education and that she would be running the ministry as acting minister until her confirmation by the Wolesi Jirga. 
  • On 11 June, the AOP announced that Ghani had nominated Harun Chakhansuri as the minister of mines and petroleum and that he would run the ministry as acting minister until his confirmation by the Wolesi Jirga. 

(2) The vote was not secret, but by a show of hands, as Pajhwok reported on 6 November 2006. Opposition (anti-Karzai) MPs had rejected the establishment of the state ministry as thy feared undue interference of the executive, ie the Presidential Office, in the legislature’s affairs. They had demanded that there should not be a (state) ministry but an independent body under the presidential office.

(3) AAN had earlier heard from sources close to Abdullah that the leadership committee would be comprised of 20 to 25 members and the general assembly would be comprised of 70 to 120 members. AAN has heard from other sources that the general assembly would be much smaller, up to around 50 members. 

Annex: Biographical background of the nominees

  • Acting Minister of Finance Abdul Hadi Arghandehwal

Arghandehwal was born in Arghandeh of Paghman district of Kabul in 1331 (1952). He completed his school in Ghazni High School in Kabul and holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Kabul University (1976). He served as Hezb-e Islami representative to the United States, and then as the coordinator of the party’s international relations committee during jihad against the Soviet Union. He served as finance minister in the 1990s under President Borhanuddin Rabbani, social and tribal affairs advisor (2006–08) to former President Karzai. He was appointed the minister of economy in 2008. He speaks Pashto, Dari, and English as well as Urdu and Arabic (see in English here and Dari here). Arghandehwal leads a faction of Hezb-e Islami that is in conflict with the party’s founder, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (AAN background here). Arghandewal’s faction had supported Abdullah in the 2014 presidential election but switched sides to back Ghani in the 2019 presidential election. 

  • Acting NDS chief Ahmad Zia Seraj

Seraj’s biography is not publicly available. He is a Tajik from Kapisa province and reportedly close to Amrullah Saleh. The Palace said Seraj has a master’s degree in defence studies from “outside the country,” and that he had worked in different departments of the NDS for 18 years, including as deputy for operations and most recently as acting head  (AAN reporting here). As acting head of NDS, Ahmad Zia Seraj replaced Masum Stanekzai who had resigned on 5 September 2019 following an operation by forces of unit 02 of NDS in Jalalabad which led to the killing of four members of an influential family and protests in front of the provincial governor office calling for the perpetrators to be arrested (media report here). Four days later, on 9 September, Seraj was appointed (media report here). 

  • Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Muhammad Hanif Atmar

Atmar is a Pashtun born in the eastern province of Laghman in 1968. Most recently, he has served as national security advisor (2014–18) in the National Unity Government. Before, he was minister of rural development (2002–06), minister of education (2006–08) and minister of interior (2008–10), under President Karzai. He holds a master’s degree in public policy and post-war development studies from University of York, UK. He speaks Dari, Pashto and English (see his bio in English here and Dari here). 

Politically, Atmar along with a group of other figures established the Right and Justice Party in 2011 (AAN reporting here and here). The party supported Ghani in the 2014 presidential election. Atmar registered as a candidate for the 2019 presidential election but failed to keep his ticket together (AAN reporting here). He did not support any candidate in the 2019 presidential election. 

  • Acting Minister of Public Health Ahmad Jawad Osmani 

Osmani is a Tajik born in Balkh on 22 August 1974. He holds a medical doctor degree from Kabul and Balkh medical universities where he served as assistant professor of internal medicine. He also holds a master’s degree in international health policy and management from one of the US universities through the Fulbright programme (the name of the university is not specified). He has worked with various organisations in different capacities such as head of the Wold Bank-funded health project for Sar-e Pul province (1383–1385/2004–06) and then as the head of a health project funded by USAID for Jawzjan province, head of the Global Fund project in 1388 (2009), and EU’s national advisor to the Ministry of Public Health in 1385 (2006). He has also served with the government in different roles such as head of international relations of the same ministry in 1390 where he served until 1394 (2015), head of policy and plan department of the Ministry of Public Health (1395/2016), deputy minister for administration and finance with the Ministry of Public Health (1395/2016), and the Ministry of Economy (1396/2017). Osmani is married and has three daughters and one son (see his bio in English here and Dari here). According to AAN sources in Kabul, he is affiliated with former Balkh governor Atta Muhammad Nur, a Jamiati (like Abdullah) but currently a Ghani ally. 

  • Acting Minister of Urban Development and Land Mahmud Karzai

Mahmud Karzai, a Pashtun from Kandahar, was born into the influential Karzai family in 1955 and is the eldest brother of former president Karzai. He has been a businessman and entrepreneur, owning restaurants in the US, was one of the biggest shareholders in the former Kabul Bank. He also runs a cement factory, the Ghori Cement in Kabul (see his short profile here). He supported Dr Abdullah in the second round of the 2014 presidential election, but switched to back Ghani in the 2019 presidential election. 

Karzai was involved in the Kabul Bank scandal and irregularities about state land in Kandahar. Ghani ordered investigations into both. Ghani reopened Kabul Bank case through his third decree after coming to power in September 2014 (AAN reporting here). On 20/7/1396 (12 October 2017), Ghani appointed a delegation to investigate Aino Mina Township in Kandahar province. The decree said that, following legal and technical investigations of other townships, a delegation led by an authorised representative of the Attorney General’s Office and comprising authorised representative of the NDS, authorised representative of the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, authorised representative of IDLG, authorised representative of Land Authority of Afghanistan be formed. The delegation was, the decree said, was “obligated to investigate all aspects of legal and technical processing of the mentioned township comprehensively.” The delegation was to submit the report of its investigation to the president within 45 days (see a copy of the decree published here and media report here). Mahmud Karzai then, on 4 Qaws 1396 (25 November 2017), told the media that that Aino Mina had legal documents and should not fall “prey to political games.” He claimed that five million dollars had been paid to Kandahar municipality for the land of Aino Mina Township. The spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, Jamshid Rasuli, said, “When the order arrived at the Attorney General’s Office, we appointed a delegation for its implementation and the delegation went to Kandahar one month ago. The investigations are still ongoing and the issue is reviewed in view of the president’s order.” 

On 10 Qaws 1397 (1 December 2018), Ghani issued a decree merging the Land Authority with the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing under the new name of the Ministry of Urban Development and Land in order to bring “healthy reform to the administrative system as well as prevent structural inflation and parallel agencies in the structure of the government.” 

  • Acting Governor of De Afghanistan Bank Ajmal Ahmadi 

Ahmadi was born in Ghazni city in 1357 (1978). He completed his primary and middle school in Ghazni city and his higher education abroad where he also spent most of his life before returning to Afghanistan at the beginning of Karzai’s administration. He holds two master’s degrees: one in business administration from Harvard University, US, and second in economy and public administration from Harvard Kennedy School, US. He worked in management of properties and stocks and consulted for global companies like Booz Allen Hamilton, World Bank, and a private stock company as well as the US Department of Treasury. He served as senior advisor to the president on financial and banking affairs under the NUG for four years and had served as acting minister of commerce and industries since 17 Dalw 1397 (see his bio in English here and Dari here). 

On 13 January this year, the Wolesi Jirga summoned Ahmadi in his capacity as then acting minister of commerce and industries for questioning about the price hike of gas in the country. He refused to appear before the Wolesi Jirga. The Jirga decided in his absence that it would no longer recognise him as the acting minister, the budget for his ministry would be suspended, Ahmadi’s signature on any contract and hiring of employees would not be valid and would be considered “a crime” (AAN parliamentary observation). However, he continued to remain the minister until his appointment in the new role. Some MPs might raise this against him whenever he appears in the Wolesi Jirga for confirmation. Despite this controversy, the international community seems to see him in positive light. The author has seen comments from a diplomatic source calling him a “reformist, doer with some aggression.” Ahmadi has also been subject to social media commentary for his inability to speak Pashto and Dari fluently. He speaks accented Dari. 

  • Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs Hasina Safi

Safi, from the eponymous Pashtun tribe and daughter of Abdul Rahim Jalali, was born in the eastern province of Laghman in the month of Qaws 1353 (10 December 1975). She completed her primary and high school in Nahid Shahid and Malalai High Schools in 1995. She continued her post-baccalaureate education in Dar ul-Moalemin (Teachers Training) and holds a bachelor’s degree in political sciences and law from private Tolo-ye Aftab University in Kabul. Safi worked with the US-based NGO International Rescue Committee, Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Afghan Women’s Educational Centre (AWEC), UNDP, Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) and the High Peace Council. She has participated in national and international conferences such as London Conference, Kabul Conference, Bonn II Conference, Chicago Conference, traditional Loya Jirga, consultative peace jirga and informal talks with Taleban representatives in Oslo, Norway and Doha, Qatar. She speaks Dari, Pashto, Urdu and English (see her bio in English here and Dari here)

  • Acting Minister of Information and Culture Taher Zuhair

Zuhair was born in Daymirdad of Dara-ye Suf- Bala of Samangan province in 1353 (1974). He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in sociology from private Kateb University in Kabul. He was elected as an MP in the 2010 parliamentary election but was unseated by the Special Electoral Court after eight months and replaced by another candidate, Ahmad Samangani. He served as advisor to former Vice-President Muhammad Karim Khalili (1390-93/2011–14). He was one of the spokespeople for Ghani’s Transformation and Continuity electoral ticket in 2014 (biographical information here). He was appointed as Bamyan provincial governor in June 2015. Bamyan’s then-MPs and some of their supporters had set up a sit-in tent in front of the governor’s office protesting against his appointment (see media report here). However, he was able to occupy the post and serve until his recent ministerial appointment. He is a member of Hezb-e Wahdat-e Islami, led by Karim Khalili. The party fielded its deputy Sarwar Danesh as Ghani’s second running-mate in the 2014 presidential election but was split in the 2019 presidential election as Danesh remained Ghani’s second running-mate but Khalili introduced another aide Asadullah Saadati as Abdullah’s second running-mate and put his weight behind Abdullah (AAN reporting here). Zuhair sided with Danesh and supported Ghani’s ticket. 

  • Acting Minister of Education Rangina Hamidi

Hamidi was born in Kandahar and escaped the country with her family at the age of four during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1981. She moved to Pakistan and then settled in the United States in 1988. She received education (bachelor’s degree in arts) at the University of Virginia and returned to Afghanistan in 2003. She is the founder and president of Khazana-ye Kandahar (Kandahar Treasure), a women private enterprise in Kandahar providing a platform for embroidery work, established it in 2008 with 500 staff members, by now reduced to 100 due to lack of market for the products (this information is compiled from her profile and the Afghan Women Chamber of Commerce website). She co-authored a book with Mary Littrell titled Embroidering within Boundaries: Afghan Women Creating a Future, published in 2017 by Thrums Press and received the 2018 Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for cultural books from the Independent Book Publishers Association. She is also the Principal of the Mezan International School in Kabul (information from her bio received from diplomatic sources). According to a Facebook post by the US embassy on 24 October 2017. She is “Afghan-American”; the dual citizenship might create problem for her confirmation by the Wolesi Jirga.

  • Acting Minister of Mines and Petroleum Harun Chakhansuri

Chakhansuri, a Pashtun from Nimruz province, was born in 1980. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Sydney University, Australia. He has 16 years of experience working with government and non-governmental organisations. He has worked with the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development in various roles, such as head of the information coordination unit (National Solidarity Programme), project director and advisor to a deputy minister (2003–09), in the Ministry of Agriculture as project director (2009–11), in the Ministry of Public Health as the head of the coordination unit for donor funded programmes (2013), with the World Bank as a rural development specialist, in the office of the president as special assistant to the president and as the president’s chief of protocol, deputy chief of staff and spokesperson for the president (2015–20). He also served as acting foreign minister briefly (January-April 2020). He is married and father of four children (see his bio in English here.)

  • State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Zia ul-Haq Amarkhel

Amarkhel is a Pashtun from Bamyan. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Islamic studies and literature from Nangrahar University (2006) and in Arabic literature from Almazruq University affiliated with International Islamic University, Islamabad. He has worked with international organisation such as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and UNAMA. He also served as the head of field operations of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) from 2009 to November 2012 when he was appointed the head of the IEC secretariat (see this Ariana News report). He resigned from his position as the head of the IEC secretariat amid the election dispute in which he was accused of favouring one candidate. Then, Abdullah’s camp had contended that “Amarkhel has organized cheating and manipulated votes favouring one candidate.” His team released a compendium of five different telephone conversations allegedly involving Amarkhel in which he refers to sheep and told his interlocutors to have them “fed till they are full” or “fattened.” Abdullah’s camp asserted that the conversation about feeding the sheep was a code for the stuffing of ballot boxes (AAN reporting here).

Amarkhel was appointed as presidential advisor for public and political affairs on 26 September 2018. This came a month after the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) had disqualified him from running as a candidate in the 2018 parliamentary election. He accused Abdullah’s office of chief executive of not allowing him to stand in the election (media report here). He called for Abdullah’s resignation before registering as a candidate for the 2019 presidential election (media report here).

  • State Minister for Disaster Management Ghulam Bahauddin Jilani

Jilani is a Tajik born in Jabal ul-Seraj district of Parwan province in 1977. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Kabul University (media report here). He is a businessman and a member of the Great Shamali Council, led by former presidential adviser Almas Zahed. He entered politics in 2014 when he won a seat in the provincial council in Parwan with a wide margin which earned him the council’s chairpersonship, a position he held until his recent ministerial appointment. He supported Ghani in the 2019 presidential election. Ghani had appointed Jilani as a co-chair of the commission for his inauguration (media report here). Jilani’s father was a key Jamiat-e-Islami figure.  According to diplomatic sources, some Jamiat-e Islami figures believed that his replacement of former Natural Disaster Management Minister Najib Aqa Fahim, also from Parwan and who had links with former Balkh Governor Atta Muhammad Nur, was unjust given that the latter is more experienced and more academically accomplished than Jilani.

  • President Ghani’s chief of staff Shaker Kargar

Kargar, son of Abdul Rasul Kargar, was born in Kargarkhana village of Andkhoy district of Faryab on 11 Dalw 1346 (31 January 1968). He is an Uzbek and completed his primary education in Shah Shahid School in Kabul city and high school in Abdu Muslim High School in Andkhoy. He holds a bachelor’s degree in law and history from Hertsen State University, St Petersburg (1991), and a master’s degree and a PhD in international law from the same university (2011). He served as a vice-chairman as well as minister of energy and water of the interim administration (2001–02) and headed the same ministry in the transitional government (2002–04). He was elected as an MP from Faryab in 2005 and served as deputy head of the Wolesi Jirga commission for international relations. He served as ambassador to Azerbaijan in 2012. He was nominated as minister of commerce and industries in 1392 (2013) and then as special representative of the president to the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) (1393–98/2014–19) (see his bio in English here and Dari here).

Kargar was originally a member of Jombesh-e Islami and an aide to General Abdul Rashid Dostum, but parted ways with him in 2017 while Dostum was in self-exile in Turkey following his alleged involvement in a high-profile case of violence against a former political ally (AAN background here). He became a close ally to Atmar. On 30 Dalw 1397 (19 February 2019), Ghani dismissed Kargar as his special representative to the commonwealth and dissolved this office as part of his campaign to remove Atmar’s allies from the government in the run up to the election. Kargar supported Ghani in the 2019 presidential election after Atmar’s ticket fell apart. 


Afghan cabinet Ashraf Ghani Dr Abdullah State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs


Ali Yawar Adili

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