Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

Still Preoccupied by ‘Who Gets What’: 100 days of the new government, but no full cabinet

Ali Yawar Adili 24 min

 More than two and half months since Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah signed their political agreement, and almost five months since the inauguration of Ashraf Ghani as president, Afghanistan still has no new cabinet. The list of cabinet nominees remains incomplete and parliament, which has to vote to confirm or reject nominees, has given up waiting and gone into recess for the summer. Another key provision of the Ghani-Abdullah agreement, setting up the High Council for National Reconciliation, has also yet to be implemented. It is supposed to be leading on the peace process. AAN researcher Ali Yawar Adili looks at how, even at a time when multiple problems need urgent attention, mistrust and power struggles between the two camps has disrupted the formation of the new government. He also provides detailed backgrounds of the appointments that have been made or proposed. 

Cabinet meeting with ministers and acting ministers on 4 August 2020 presided by President Ashraf Ghani from a separate room via CCTV due to the continued Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Palace Facebook page.

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 (read AAN report here) to allow for negotiations with his rival, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, who had held a parallel presidential inauguration on the same day (read AAN report here). Yet the political impasse over the election result continued, and cabinet appointments were further delayed. Eventually, in a power-sharing agreement between Ghani and Abdullah, which was signed on 17 May (read AAN report here), Ghani was recognised and confirmed as president, while Abdullah was given the position of chairman of a new body, the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR). The agreement also stipulated Abdullah would “introduce” candidates for half the cabinet posts, including some key ministries, and that provincial governors would be appointed based on “a rule agreed upon by the two sides.”  

On the day Ghani and Abdullah signed the agreement, they touted it as a sign of their reconciliation (read AAN report here). However, in their efforts to form the cabinet and establish the HCNR, they seem to have fallen back into mistrust and power struggle. This has hampered the formation of the cabinet and, by mid-June, a month after the agreement, only nine ministers, two state ministers and the head of central bank had been appointed. All of them had been introduced by Ghani’s camp (as reported in AAN’s last update, published on 13 June 2020).

New appointments

In the latest round of appointments, made in mid-July, Ghani (re-)introduced Asadullah Khaled and Massud Andarabi as acting ministers for defence and interior affairs. This was announced by the Administrative Office of the President in tweets on 18 July (see here and here); the Afghan government tends to make such announcements on social media, sometimes followed by a statement on official websites). Both Khaled and Andarabi were already serving as acting ministers in the National Unity Government (NUG); Khaled had been appointed as acting defence minister in December 2018 (read media report here), Andarabi as acting minister of interior in February 2019 (read media report here). They were never introduced to parliament for a vote of confidence. 

With the earlier (re)appointment of Ahmad Zia Seraj as NDS chief, on 1 April, all three security chiefs (at the ministries of defence and interior and NDS) have retained their positions, despite any lack of improvement in security. Although the positions were announced by the Ghani camp, the decision to retain the men seems to have been taken by both camps. 

The division of positions between the two camps (which was not specified in the 17 May agreement) remains somewhat opaque. Kabul-based daily Hasht-e Sobh on 17 June gave an overview of what was known then (see footnote 1). It also said that several “state ministries” had not been factored into the division of cabinet posts and would be solely in Ghani’s gift, that members of the Supreme Court would be appointed based on mutual consultation and that discussion on the attorney general was ongoing.

In July, Ghani also appointed eight new provincial governors (see the announcements by the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) in footnote 2): 

NoNameProvinceDate of appointmentEthnicity
1Muhammad Sediq PatmanKhost6 July 2020Pashtun
2Rahmatullah YarmalLaghman6 July 2020Pashtun
3Abdul Ghafur MalekzaiNuristan6 July 2020Pashtun
4Taj Muhammad JahedBaghlan6 July 2020Tajik
5Muhammad Daud KalakaniSamangan6 July 2020Tajik
6Muhammad Halim FedayiPaktia7 July 2020Pashtun
7Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal Kunduz9 July 202Pashtun
8Muhammad Eqbal Said Kunar19 July 2020Pashtun

Ghani had earlier appointed six other governors (see table 2 in AAN’s previous report), which means that a total of 14 out of 34 new provincial governors have now been appointed. Except for the governor of Daikundi who is supported by Muhammad Mohaqeq and thus from Abdullah’s camp, all the other 12 newly appointed governors have been introduced by Ghani’s camp. 

Other high profile appointments by Ghani include the following: 

  • On 18 June, Ghani appointed Shamim Khan Katawazi as the head of IDLG (announcement here). Katawazi was governor of Paktia and before a presidential advisor on youth affairs. 
  • On 21 June, Ghani appointed Abdul Matin Bek as his senior political advisor (announcement here). Before this, Bek served as the head of IDLG. He is also a member of the government’s negotiation team in the intra-Afghan peace talks (read AAN report here).
  • On 6 July, Ghani appointed his 2019 election campaign manager Muhammad Omar Daudzai as his special envoy to Pakistan (announcement here). The appointment seems to reciprocate Pakistan’s appointment of its former ambassador Sadeq Khan as special envoy to Afghanistan in early June (read media report here). Daudzai has held a variety of senior positions post-2001, including interior minister and ambassador to Iran and Pakistan. 
  • In early July, Ghani also appointed then governor of Nangrahar, Shah Mahmud Miakhel, first deputy minister of defence. The man he replaced, Yasin Zia, is now the chief of the army staff (read media report here). As is common practice for officials assuming their new role, they were officially introduced to the ministry at a special ceremony on 23 July (find report here).

Abdullah’s share of the cabinet

There has been considerable back-and-forth between Ghani and Abdullah’s camps over Abdullah’s nominations. On 9 July, Radio Azadi reported that “authentic sources” close to Dr Abdullah were saying that he had submitted nominees for 11 ministries, two state ministries and the Independent Commission for Administrative Reform and Civil Service to the presidential palace (see the full list in footnote 3). Arezo News reported that the Palace had confirmed that it had indeed received Abdullah’s list of nominees. However, a day later, on 10 July, Abdullah’s second deputy, Asadullah Sa’adati, told Etilaat-e Roz that the list published by the media was neither accurate, nor had it been submitted to the Palace. Sa’adati told AAN on 14 July that, except for the nominee for the Minister of Interior, which had been agreed upon with Ghani, the list had yet to be completed and submitted. He said that National Security Advisor Hamdullah Moheb had met Abdullah the day before, on 13 July, but that disagreement remained over one of the ministries and they were still awaiting the Palace’s response. 

AAN has, moreover, heard from diplomatic sources that Ghani had again sent his national security advisor Hamdullah Moheb and the General Director of the Administrative Office of the President Fazel Fazly to see Abdullah on 14 July, a day before he was set to participate in a ceremony in Sheberghan to promote former first vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum to the rank of marshal. They reportedly delivered a message that the May 2020 political agreement was not a power-sharing agreement and that Ghani would give Abdullah only some ministries, no deputy ministers and no provincial governors. 

It is not fully clear when Abdullah finally did submit his cabinet nominees, but on 21 July, Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqi told a press conference that some of them did not meet the required criteria of “merit” and “political weight” (read media report here). A day later, on 22 July, Ariana News reported that Ghani had rejected five of Abdullah’s nominees. They were as follows:

  • Fazl Ahmad Manawi for the Ministry of Justice
  • Anwar ul Haq Ahadi for the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation
  • Nur Rahman Akhlaqi for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations
  • Mohebullah Samim for the Ministry of Tribal Affairs
  • Mustafa Mastur for the state ministry for peace

It is unclear what the status of this rejection now is. Earlier, on 17 June, Hasht-e Sobh had quoted “informed sources” who said that, based on the political agreement, neither Ghani or Abdullah would have the right to veto each other’s ministerial nominees. The author has seen communication within the diplomatic community indicating the same understanding. It does, however, seem that Ghani is using his prerogative as president to vet Abdullah’s candidates.

Two of the supposedly rejected nominees, Manawi and Akhlaqi, were key members of Abdullah’s election campaign and thus actively involved in the electoral dispute between the two teams. It would be a major affront to Abdullah if they were indeed rejected, given that it is common for key campaigners to be rewarded with ministerial positions. 

Another ‘rejected’ nominee, Mastur, is currently the Minister of Economy. Ghani’s rejection of his nomination seems to be driven by the struggle between the two camps over control of the state ministry for peace, which is currently run by Ghani’s former chief of staff Abdul Salam Rahimi and, according to the political agreement, is supposed to serve as the secretariat of the still to be established HCNR. 

AAN was, incidentally, a participant in the first of a series of consultative meetings convened by the ministry for peace, which aimed to collect the views of academic and research organisations. According to the ministry’s communications, the outcome of these meetings would be reported to the state minister and the president; there was no mention of Dr Abdullah, as the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, being involved. The government seems in no hurry to fulfil this provision of the political agreement, as the author heard from sources that Abdullah had submitted the structure of HCNR to Ghani, but that he had delayed approving it.

The reason for Ghani’s rejection of the remaining two nominees, Ahadi and Samim, is not clear to us.

Abdullah’s initial delay in submitting his cabinet nominations seems to have mainly been due to an intra-factional struggle within his own camp. On 28 June, Tolonews quoted Sayed Eshaq Gailani, head of the National Solidarity Movement of Afghanistan and a supporter of Abdullah, as saying too many candidates had been put forward for too few ministries and deputy ministers and “therefore, the doctor has some problems.” 

Another reason for the delay was Abdullah’s wish to submit a full list, as a result of what Hasht-e Sobh described as Ghani’s “encroachment” on Abdullah’s ‘share,’ by the appointment of two northern governors. The appointments spurred Abdullah to try to prepare a full list of nominees, not only for the ministers but also for the deputy ministers and provincial governors, as he feared that once the cabinet appointments were completed, Ghani would disregard his nominees for deputy minister and provincial governor posts. He does now, however, seem to have submitted a partial cabinet list (although there is some lack of clarity on its status, as explained above).

Controversial appointment of provincial governors

Following Ghani’s 6 July appointment of five governors (see the table above), Abdullah’s office told the media that he had not been consulted and called the appointments “unexpected.” Abdullah’s surprise seems to particularly relate to Ghani’s appointments for Baghlan and Samangan, since Abdullah had initially proposed that he and Ghani should each introduce governors for the provinces where they had received a majority of votes (see the proposal annexed to AAN’s previous report here). This was not enshrined in the final political agreement which, instead, stipulated that the provincial governors would “be introduced based on a rule agreed by the two sides” (see the agreement annexed to this AAN report here). AAN has heard from sources close to Abdullah that they believed it was still part of a mutual understanding, but there has been no sign so far from the Ghani side that this was indeed the case. The rejection of the proposal (or the unwillingness to uphold an agreement) may well be related to the fact that Ghani had the majority vote in only 16 provinces, while Abdullah was ahead in 18. 

Underlying political issues

The negotiations over appointments seem to have been complicated by Abdullah’s recent remarks on the possibility of an interim government, which is a sensitive subject between the two leaders. At a US Institute for Peace event on 25 June (watch the video here), Abdullah did not discount the possibility when he was asked whether the Afghan government would be prepared to accept such a Taleban proposal. He also did not welcome it, but simply said: 

If they say an interim government for the sake of creation of interim government, that has a different meaning. Let’s get [to the negotiation table] first. Everybody has to be free to raise any proposal and we have to be flexible in our thoughts, but nothing should derail us from achieving a lasting and acceptable peace, for all Afghans, including the Taleban.

AAN was told that this had angered Ghani and that the following meeting between them had been cold. Ghani was, reportedly, further infuriated when he heard that Abdullah and former president Hamed Karzai had recently discussed an interim setup as a possible scenario. 

Earlier, Ghani had faced a similar question at the Atlantic Council (watch the video here) on 12 June, when a Wall Street Journal reporter asked about the “idea of an interim government” and if he could see himself stepping aside if requested by the Taleban and the US government. Ghani replied that 

Any discussion of an interim government is premature. I serve at the will of the Afghan people, not at the will of the Taleban. … Dr Najibullah made the mistake of his life by announcing that he was going to resign. We have lived that film. Please don’t ask us to replay a film of which we know where it ends. 

The idea of an interim government as a result of possible peace negotiations has been highly controversial, both before and immediately after the 2019 presidential election. US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad had pushed for a postponement of the election (read AAN report here), but Ghani pushed back and has, in general, been very vocal in opposing any discussion of possible power-sharing arrangements before or as a result of intra-Afghan peace negotiations. 

Another controversial appointment – of a marshal

It seems the only provision from the Ghani-Abdullah agreement that has been implemented so far is the promotion of Ghani’s former first vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum to the rank of marshal. He is only the third person in Afghanistan’s modern history to receive this honour, following the late former defence minister and vice president Muhammad Qasim Fahim and late Shah Wali Khan, a member of the royal family in the time of the pre-1973 monarchy (read AAN report here). Although Ghani issued the decree on 10 June 2020 (it was posted on Facebook by Abdullah’s first deputy Enayatullah Babur Frahmand on 2 July), he delayed its implementation for several weeks. Dostum served as Ghani’s vice-president, but had fallen out with him (find AAN background here) and became a key Abdullah supporter in the 2019 election. He officially received his new rank on 15 July. Abdullah travelled to Dostum’s stronghold in Sheberghan, the provincial capital of Jawzjan, for the occasion (read a report here). From Ghani’s side, only his chief of staff, Shaker Kargar, like Dostum an Uzbek, attended the ceremony where Ghani’s decree was read out. (4)

According to the Ghani-Abdullah agreement, Dostum is now also a member of the Supreme State Council and the National Security Council (NSC). It remains to be seen if he will indeed join the NSC and whether the Supreme State Council, a new body also established by the Abdullah-Ghani agreement, which is supposed to “comprise “political leaders and national personalities” and “advise the country’s president on crucial national issues,” will indeed be constituted. 

Dostum’s promotion was condemned by human rights organisations because of the war crime allegations against him. Patricia Grossman, Associate Asia Director for the international rights group, Human Rights Watch, told Voice of America, the move was tantamount to enabling impunity. Afghan media was not as direct, although one outlet spoke of Dostum’s “iron-handedness in the treatment of his local rivals and enemies” and mentioned that he was “admired by Afghanistan’s Uzbek community.”

Parliamentary summer recess

Even if Ghani and Abdullah agree on a cabinet list soon, its confirmation will still be delayed, given that parliament has left for its 45-day summer recess, which started on 21 July and will continue till 6 September. Each minister needs to receive a vote of confidence in the lower house, the Wolesi Jirga, to carry on in his or her post (two female candidates were among the earlier nominations and just one from the more recent list). This has often been a time-consuming exercise, with would-be ministers appearing before MPs for questioning, and opponents and supporters of the president wrangling behind the scenes to secure political deals and influence over certain ministries. 

Before going on its summer recess, the parliament had repeatedly called on the government to complete the cabinet appointments and introduce the nominees for confirmation. On 14 June, Wolesi Jirga speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani and the members of the administrative board met Dr Abdullah and called for the acceleration of the appointments and an end to the situation where many ministries are led by acting ministers. (Before the 2019 presidential election, there had been 15 acting ministers, including those dealing with security (read AAN report here).) On 28 June Hasht-e Sobh quoted some MPs, including Wolesi Jirga deputy secretary Hojatullah Kheradmand, who accused the government of intentionally delaying the appointments, in the hope that they be approved under the pressure of time. Kheradmand offered to delay the summer recess until the fate of the cabinet was clarified. 

On 29 June, speaker Rahmani reported that the Wolesi Jirga had tasked five of its commissions to look into the documents already provided by ministerial candidates. (5) He said that if the candidates had provided complete documents and met the required criteria, they would be put to a vote in the plenary session. 

In the meantime, a group of MPs filed a motion to preclude nominees that have dual citizenship from being confirmed. Panjshir MP Khan Aqa Rezayi tweeted on 29 June that MPs were finalising a draft proposal based on the constitution “which would end/stop  dual nationals getting vote of confidence and joining the cabinet, unless they provide legal proof of annulment of their second citizenship by a credible court.” The tweet contained a picture of the proposal, which was signed by dozens of MPs. The proposal said that the “existing gap” in the implementation of the provision of the constitution in the last 19 years had led to the abuse of government positions by those who hold dual citizenships. The MPs accused such officials of returning to “western countries after the end of their government mission with the wealth of the poor people of Afghanistan” and alleged that some of those officials had evaded prosecution and fled to their country of second citizenship, despite “evidence of their corruption.” The MPs still have to collect the signatures of the majority in the house to able to file their motion and put it to vote. The motion appears aimed at ensuring that the nominees with dual citizenship are rejected. The constitution (article 72) states that if a ministerial candidate has dual citizenship, the Wolesi Jirga has the right to approve or reject the nomination.

In the end, despite offers to delay their recess, the MPs did not wait for the government and went on their summer holidays after all. To be fair, there were also no indications that the government was about to release the full list. 

Official calls for things to start moving

The delays in the formation of both the government and the HCNR have led to a new round of calls by diplomats for a speedy implementation of the political agreement, amid fears that it could unravel. They fear the absence of a formally confirmed cabinet and the delays in establishing the agreed structural framework for peace talks are standing in the way of progress in the peace process. Moreover, the delay and disagreement over the cabinet appointments and the HCNR seem to have given rise to concern about even the fate of the political agreement itself. On 19 July, US Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson tweeted that he had discussed with former President Hamed Karzai and jihadi leader Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf “the importance of moving forward to implement the May 17 agreement.” (6) Karzai and Sayyaf were the lead members of a mediation team that helped broker the political agreement between Ghani and Abdullah following their rival inaugurations (read AAN reports here and here). On 30 July, NATO senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, Stefano Pontecorvo, said he had discussed with the general director of administrative office of the president, Fazel Fazly, “the importance of finalising government formation and entering into intra-Afghan negotiations.” 

On the day of Wilson’s appeal, Dr Abdullah met Karzai (find a report here), where they were said to have emphasised the necessity of implementing the political agreement, finalising the government-Taleban exchange of prisoners and starting intra-Afghan negotiations. Earlier, on 14 July, when Karzai had met Abdullah, they reportedly stressed the importance of the finalisation of the organisational structure of the High Council for National Reconciliation.

So far, the words have not resulted in much progress in either the formation of the government or the establishment of the HCNR. 


The political agreement between Ghani and Abdullah, that formally ended the electoral impasse and that was touted as a sign of reconciliation, is increasingly looking like a continuation of the troubles of the last administration, the National Unity Government (NUG). The appointment of a new cabinet is again delayed by a process of arm-wrestling over the distribution of government posts and has led to concerns that Afghanistan may again be governed by an incomplete cabinet, with many of its ministers never formally confirmed, as it was under the NUG. 

The situation is complicated by the fact that the terms of the political agreement are fairly opaque. Although agreement provided for a coalition-like sharing of cabinet positions, President Ghani’s personal power seems to have been extended in comparison with the NUG arrangement, since Abdullah has been denied a direct role in the government. It is also possible that because of disappointment over Abdullah’s performance in the NUG, Abdullah himself and some of his now estranged allies from the Jamiat-e Islami faction actually did not want him to have a new direct government position. Rather, it appears that Abdullah’s primary role has become one aimed at acquiring positions for his political circle and the safeguarding of his influence over the peace process. Abdullah is, however, struggling to even finalise his nominations. 

Unfortunately, the political agreement has not led to a greater focus on the many pressing challenges that the country faces. The arm-wrestling over positions has, in fact, led to many important issues, from peace talks to the dire economic situation to the Covid-19 pandemic, being downgraded. The swift formation of a cabinet and the selection of capable candidates should have been, of course, a prerequisite for the administration to tackle those issues. So far, it has been bogged down and preoccupied by who gets what. Also, just worth noting is the paucity of female nominees – just three from a total of more than two dozen.

People had expected the government to announce its programme in the first 100 days after taking office (see for instance this 28 June Hasht-e Sobh editorial), but so far there has been no sign of substantial discussions on what it wants to do. This does not bode well for the next months. The start of direct talks between the government and the Taleban may be further delayed by this divided and inactive government. The failure of Kabul to come up with a unified government position on possible talks could also lead to a new crisis in US-Afghan relations, with the US administration again seeing the Afghan government as an obstacle to its wish to bring US troops home. 

Edited by Thomas Ruttig, Martine van Bijlert and Kate Clark

This report has been amended on 6 August 2020 to correct the following sentence: “Ghani had earlier appointed six (not five) other governors (see table 2 in AAN’s previous report), which means that a total of 14 (not 13) out of 34 new provincial governors have now been appointed.

(1) According to Hasht-e Sobh’s 17 June report, the cabinet posts allocated to the Abdullah camp are:

  1. Ministry of Interior
  2. Ministry of Economy
  3. Ministry of Higher Education
  4. Ministry of Agriculture and livestock
  5. Ministry of Telecommunication
  6. Ministry of Transport and Aviation
  7. Ministry of Commerce and Industries
  8. Ministry of Tribal affairs

The cabinet posts allocated to the Ghani camp are reportedly:

  1. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  2. Ministry of Finance
  3. Ministry of Public Health
  4. Ministry of Education
  5. Ministry of Women Affairs
  6. Ministry of Information and Culture
  7. Ministry of Mines and Petroleum
  8. NDS

The distribution of the following ministries is yet to be decided:

  1. Ministry of Defence
  2. Ministry of Justice
  3. Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development
  4. Ministry of Public Works
  5. Ministry of Energy and Water
  6. Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs
  7. Ministry of Refugees and Returnees

Deputy minister for political affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, deputy minister of finance and first deputy of NDS chief would be appointed by Dr Abdullah.

(2) The IDLG made the following announcements related to the appointments of these governors:

  • On 6 July, the IDLG announced that based on its recommendation and the president’s order (number 817), Taj Muhammad Jahed had been appointed as Baghlan’s governor while maintaining his current job as advisor to the president. 
  • On 6 July, the IDLG announced that based on its recommendation and the president’s order number 818, Rahmatullah Yarmal had been appointed as the new governor of Laghman. Yarmal had so far been serving as Zabul governor. He replaced Asef Nang. 
  • On 6 July, the IDLG announced that based on its recommendation and the president’s order (no 805), Abdul Ghafur Malekzai had been appointed as the new Nuristan governor. Malekzai had so far been serving as Badghis governor. He replaced Hafez Abdul Qayyum. 
  • On 6 July, the IDLG announced that based on its recommendation and the president’s order (no 806), Muhammad Sediq Patman had been appointed as the new governor of Khost. Patman has so far served as deputy minister for teaching. He replaced Muhammad Halim Fedayi. 
  • On 6 July, the IDLG announced that based on its recommendation and the president’s order (no 807), Muhammad Daud Kalakani had been appointed as the governor of Samangan. He replaced Abdul Latif Ibrahimi. 
  • On 7 July, the IDLG announced that based on its recommendation and the president’s order (no 827), former governor of Khost Muhammad Halim Fedayi had been appointed as the new governor of Paktia 
  • On 9 July, the IDLG announced that based on its recommendation and the president’s order (the no of the order was not mentioned), Sattar had been appointed as the new Kunduz governor. He had previously been working as Kunar governor and replaced former acting governor Hashmatullah Rahimi. 
  • On 19 July, the IDLG announced that based on its recommendation and the president’s order (no 947), Muhammad Eqbal Said had been appointed as the new Kunar governor. Said replaced Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal who moved to Kunduz. 

(3) Abdullah’s nominees for 11 ministries and two state ministries and the Independent Commission for Administrative Reform which have, reportedly, been submitted to the Palace are:

NoNameMinistries/InstitutionsPolitical Affiliation 
1Massud AndarabiMinistry of InteriorAbdullah
2Fazl Ahmad ManawiMinistry of JusticeAbdullah
3Anwar ul Haq AhadiMinistry of Agriculture and IrrigationHead of New National Front of Afghanistan 
4Nur Rahman AkhlaqiMinistry of Refugees and RepatriationsAbdullah
5Mohebullah SamimMinistry of Tribal AffairsAbdullah’s electoral ally
6Masuma KhawariMinistry of TelecommunicationHezb-e Wahdat led by Mohaqeq
7Nesar Ahmad GhoryaniMinistry of Commerce and IndustriesReportedly close to Ismail Khan
8Sa’adat Mansur NaderiMinister of EconomyIsmaili leader Sayed Mansur Naderi
9Bashir Ahmad TahyanjMinister of Labour and Social AffairsJombesh-e Islami led by Dostum
10Kaneskha TorkestaniMinistry of Higher EducationJombesh-e Islami led by Dostum
11Abbas BasirMinistry of TransportHezb-e Wahdat led by Karim Khalili
12Mustafa MasturState Ministry for PeaceAbdullah
13Najib Aqa FahimState Ministry for Mayrtrs and DisabledAbdullah
14Azizullah AriafarIndependent Commission for Administrative Reform and Civil ServiceAbdullah

(4) Ghani’s decree dated 10 June 2020 said “pursuant to provision of paragraph 19 of article 64 of the constitution of Afghanistan, I grant the marshal rank to the country’s political personality honourable Abdul Rashid Dostum for his services in resolving the political stalemates and ensuring the country’s stability.” Article 64 of the constitution lists the president’s authorities and duties and paragraph 19 is about his authority to “[b]estow medals, insignias as well as honorary titles in accordance with the provisions of the law.”

(5) The parliamentary Commission for Internal Security would look into tazkeras and age, the Commission for International Affairs into possible dual citizenships (which are banned for ministers), the Commission for Judicial Affairs into possible criminal cases and records against nominees, the Commission for Central Audit into outstanding tax issue, and the Commission for Religious and Cultural Affairs into their education documents. (Article 72 of the constitution requires that ministers should have higher education without specifying the degree.)

(6) On 19 July, US Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson tweeted (parts 2 and 3 here and here): 

Appreciated the opportunity to discuss with @KarzaiH and Ustad Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf the importance of moving forward to implement the May 17 agreement they helped negotiate between President Ghani (@ashrafghani) and Dr. Abdullah (@DrabdullahCE). We urge this country’s leaders promptly to establish the new government, create the High Council for National Reconciliation, complete the exchange of prisoners, and move to the opening of intra-Afghan negotiations. The Afghan people have made clear their impatience. Start intra-Afghan negotiations now so that discussions on a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire can begin. #AfghanPeaceProcess 

Annex: Biographical background of nominees

  1. Short profiles of Abdullah’s reported nominees 
  • Acting minister for interior affairs Massud Andarabi

Massud Andarabi is a Tajik and was born in Deh Salah village of Andarab district of Baghlan province on 24 April 1980. He holds a bachelor’s degree in ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and a master’s degree in international information and service. His military rank is lieutenant general. He served as acting head of the NDS for one year; deputy head of NDS for operation for four years; and technical advisor of NDS for one year. He was an MIS (Management Information System) specialist with UNDP for two years and database specialist for three years, and head of database with UNOCHA for one year. He has been serving as acting minister of interior since February 2019. Andarabi speaks Dari, Pashto, English, Urdu and Arabic (his biography on the Ministry of Interior’s website in Dari here and Pashto here).

  • Fazil Ahmad Manawi for Ministry of Justice

Manawi is a Tajik from Panjshir province. A judge by profession, Manawi is known to be a key figure in Jamiat and was close to the late commander Ahmad Shah Massud. He has a religious background. From 2009 to 20013, he was the chairman of the Independent Election Commission. Since 2014, he has been the chief electoral advisor to Dr Abdullah (information from diplomatic sources). 

  • Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi for Ministry of Agriculture

Ahadi is a Pashtun and was born in Kabul in 1330 (1951). He holds a master’s degree in economy and political sciences from the American University in Beirut, Lebanon and a PhD in political sciences from Northwestern University, US. He served as the Governor of the Central Bank (2002-2004) and Minister of Economy (2004-2008), and was leader of Afghan Mellat party (find a biography of his here). He supported Ghani in the 2014 presidential election but fell out with him soon after the formation of the NUG and formed an opposition group called the New National Front of Afghanistan (read AAN background here). He supported Abdullah in the 2019 presidential election and was introduced by him as candidate for the post of the chief executive, the post Abdullah had held in the NUG and which Abdullah wanted to maintain in the new administration (read AAN report here). This did not materialise.

  • Mohebullah Samim for the Ministry of Tribal Affairs 

Samim is a Pashtun and was born in Waghaz district of Ghazni in 1344 (1965). He did his higher education in linguistics. He has served as provincial director of information and culture in Ghazni and district governor of Waghaz and Andar. He also served as deputy chancellor of Kabul University and chancellor of the Polytechnic. He was appointed as the governor of Paktika in 2010 until Ghani replaced him with Abdul Karim Matin in November 2014 (). He speaks Pashto, Dari, Arabic and English (his biography published by Pajhwok here). He joined Abdullah after having fallen out with Ghani (other sources: here and diplomatic sources). 

  • Mustafa Mastur for the State Ministry for Peace

Mastur is a Tajik and was born in Kabul in 1347 (1968). He graduated from Kabul Medical University in 1992 and holds a master’s degree from Princeton University, Pakistan (2003). He served as a doctor in different health centres including with the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (1993-2001); and as general director of budget and Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Finance (2004-17). He has been the minister of economy since December 2017 (his official biography in Dari here). He is Abdullah’s nephew and confidante.  

  • Sayed Sadat Mansur Naderi for Minister of Economy

Naderi, born in 1976, is the son of Ismaeli religious leader and former PDPA-allied militia commander Sayed Mansur Naderi, also known as Sayed-e Kayyan. (The family’s headquarter is in the Kayyan valley of Baghlan.)  Naderi has a BA (Tolo News says it is an MA) in Economics/International Business from the University of London (1999). He is also the chairman of Afghan Gold and CEO of SMN Investments, a privately held group of companies active in nearly all of Afghanistan’s main economic sectors, including fuel import and storage, construction, precious metals and gems, security, property dealing, advertising, supermarkets and insurance (also providing coverage for the Aynak Copper Mine). Sadat Naderi was awarded the 2012 Peace through Commerce award by the United States Department of Commerce (read AAN report here). He served as minister of urban development from March 2015 until his resignation in June 2018 (read media report here). His family supported Ghani in 2014 presidential election but switched sides to Abdullah in the 2019 presidential election. 

  • Najib Aqa Fahim for State Ministry for Martyrs and Disabled 

Fahim is a Tajik and was born in Kapisa province in 1343 (1964). He holds a bachelor’s degree in law and political sciences from Kabul University (1987). He participated in the jihad against the communist regime and briefly served in the Ministry of Defence following the fall of the communist regime. He served as lecturer in faculty of law and political sciences, Kabul University (1994-6), first secretary of the Afghan consulate in Mashad, Iran (2002-4); deputy minister of martyrs and disabled for finance and admin (2004-13); head of policy development of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2013-18) and; State Minister for Disaster Management (March 2019 until his recent replacement) (see his biography on the state ministry for disaster management website in English here and Dari here).

  • Azizullah Aryafar, head of Civil Service Commission

Aryafar is a Tajik and was born in Parwan province in 1348 (1969). He holds a bachelor’s degree in law and political sciences from Kabul University. He served as head of publications of Afghan Film (1992-6) and as head of publications of Afghanistan Television during the interim government (which was in power from 2001-2004). He worked as the head of information and publication relations of the Independent Commission for Administrative Reform (2009-2013) (read media report here) and as a commissioner at the Electoral Complaints Commission (2013-2016).

  • Bashir Ahmad Tahyenj for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs 

Tahyenj, son of Ustad Char, is an Uzbek and was born in Andkhoy district of Faryab province in 1353 (1974). He went to Abdul Muslim High School in his home district and holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Balkh University (1995). He is currently doing his master’s degree in management. He worked with UNHCR and IOM for some time. He was elected to the provincial council of Faryab (2005-9) and served as deputy chair of the council for a term. He was later elected as an MP from Faryab (2010-2018) and served as deputy head of the Wolesi Jirga Commission for Audit. Tahyenj has been a member of Jombesh-e Melli Islami Party for around 20 years and its spokesman for ten years (biography sent to AAN by his office). 

  • Nur Rahman Akhlaqi for Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations

Akhlaqi is a Tajik and was born in Andarab district of Baghlan province in 1979. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economy from Kabul University (2005) and a master’s degree in business administration from Islamic Azad University, Kabul Branch (2015). He has worked as chief editor of Hafta-Nama-e Sobat (Stability Weekly), head of Nur TV. He also served as head of Youth Wing of Jamiat-e Islami. He has been a member of the leadership council of Jamiat-e Islami since 2017 (information from his bio shared with AAN). He was a 2018 parliamentary candidate from Kabul but was not elected. 

  • Kanishka Turkistani for ministry of Higher Education

Turkistani is an Uzbek and was born in Faryab province in 1361 (1982). He finished Khurasan High School, Faryab in 1999 and graduated the medical faculty of Balkh University in 2008. He has served as the head of environmental health with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) (February 2014 up to now); spokesman and head of public relations of MoPH (2012-15); chief editor of the BBC for the north (2009-12); and BBC reporter (January 2003 -9). He is a member of Jombesh-e Melli and currently the elected head of the party’s youth wing Jombesh-e Jawanan-e Afghanistan. He has held this position since September 2017 (information obtained from his biography shared with AAN).

  • Abbas Basir for Ministry of Transport 

Basir is a Hazara from Ghazni province and was born in 1968. He has a master’s degree in Sharia from the Global Centre for Islamic Studies in Qum, Iran, and a PhD and a second Masters in International Law from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. He was chief of staff for Second Vice President Karim Khalili from 2011 until 2014. Before that, he served as senior adviser and policy deputy for the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) from 2009 to 2011, as first secretary at the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi (2006-9) and as deputy and acting head of the Department of Cultural Relations at the ministry of foreign affairs (2003-6; read this AAN report). He was nominated as minister of public works in January 2015 but rejected by the Wolesi Jirga. He was then appointed as a presidential advisor before he became the director general of South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP)

  • Nesar Ahmad Ghoryani for Ministry of Commerce and Industries

Ghoryani is a Tajik from Herat. He holds a baccalaureate. He is a businessman and served as an MP from Herat (2010-2018) and was a member of the Wolesi Jirga commission for defence and territorial integrity (his short bio on the Wolesi Jirga website here). He is reportedly close to Ismail Khan (according to diplomatic sources). 

  • Masuma Khawari for Ministry of Tele-Communication

Khawari is a Hazara and was born in Dara-e Suf district of Samangan in 1364 (1985). She holds a bachelor’s degree in laboratory science from Turkey. She has worked in different hospitals in Ankara, Turkey and served as Samangan MP (2010-2018) (see her biography on the Wolesi Jirga’s websitee here). Khawari was a 2018 parliamentary candidate but was disqualified by the Electoral Complaints Commission through a contested vetting (read AAN report here). She is a deputy leader of Hezb-e Wahdat-e Mardom-e Afghanistan led by Muhammad Mohaqeq. 

2. Short bios of recent high profile appointments made by Ghani

(find earlier ones in this recent AAN report

  • Asadullah Khaled for Ministry of Defence

Khaled is a Pashtun and was born in Nawa district of Ghazni province. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from a university in Tajikistan (2001). He served as head of NDS Directorate 5 (from 2001), governor of Ghazni (2002-05), Kandahar governor (2005-08), minister of frontiers and tribal affairs (2010-12) and NDS chief (2012). He survived an assassination attempt by a suicide bomber posing as Taleban peace messenger when he was the NDS chief. He is considered to be close to jihadi leader Sayyaf (biographical information by the BBC here) and launched a political group called Omid-e Saba on 2 August 2018 (read media report here). In December 2018, Ghani appointed him as the acting defence minister. There are multiple allegations of human rights violation against him, including of using torture, as detailed by Human Rights Watch

  • Matin Bek as political advisor to the president

Bek, son of Uzbek Jamiat-e Islami commander Abdul Mutaleb Bek, was born in Hazar Somuch district of Takhar province in 1987. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political sciences from Delhi University (2008) and a master’s degree in political sciences from Jawaher Lal Nehru University (2010). He was appointed to government after his father was killed in a suicide bombing in 2011. He has served as policy advisor to the Ministry of Interior (2011- 2012), deputy minister of IDLG for finance and administration (2012- 2015), deputy NDS chief for provincial affairs (2015), and head of IDLG (2015-2020) (his official bio in English here and in Dari here).

  • General Yasin Zia as Chief of Army Staff

Zia is a Tajik, with a background in Jamiat-e Islami, had been serving as first deputy minister of defence, since March 2019. Previously, he has served as deputy national security advisor (when he was promoted from Major-General to Lieutenant-General (December 2017 to March 2019), governor of Takhar from October 2015 until his resignation in May 2017 and deputy NDS director (2011-2015), according to official information here here, here and a media report here.

  • Shah Mahmud Miakhel as first deputy minister of defence

Miakhel is a Pashtun and served as the governor of Nangrahar from February 2019 ( until his recent appointment as first deputy minister of defence. Before, Miakhel was the Country Director in Afghanistan for the US Institute of Peace (USIP). Prior to that he was a governance advisor for UNAMA, and deputy minister of interior (2003-2005). In 1994–1995, he worked for UNDP and UNOPS in south and southeast Afghanistan, where he helped to establish District Rehabilitation Shuras (DRS). He also worked as a reporter for the Pashto service of the Voice of America from 1985–1990 (his bio is taken from this academic website).


Ashraf Ghani Cabinet coalition Dr Abdullah NUG


Ali Yawar Adili

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