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Interview with Spozhmai Maiwandi

As Afghanistan’s President Karzai chooses a cabinet, pressure mounts from factions and ethnic groups, even from the United States. Will the tension and debate impede steps toward democracy?

A recent interview on VOA-TV’s “Newsline” program sheds light on the deliberations in the loya jirga. Newsline’s David Borgida interviews Spozhmai Maiwandi, VOA Program Coordinator for the South and Central Asia Division.

Joining us to talk about the Loya Jirga and the new cabinet, Spozhmai Maiwandi, Program Coordinator of the VOA's South and Central Asia Division.

Spozhmai, thanks for joining us. Any critical elements about the members of the cabinet that you can see? What's important and not important about the naming of the cabinet?

What is important about the naming of the cabinet, there was a kind of dispute over three ministers who came from one small village in Afghanistan. And many people thought that there was not balance and they were hoping that those ministers will change, or at least some of them will change. And one of them did.

Actually, one of them, on the very first day of the Loya Jirga, announced his resignation. And he said that we know that this is how the people feel, so I want to resign.

And the finalists that Chairman Karzai announced today still are in place, the two other ministers, which are very strong posts. One is the post of the Defense Minister and the other one is to the Foreign Ministry.

Let's talk about Abdullah Abdullah, the Foreign Minister who was named. Those of us in the West have seen him quite a bit on television. How important is he and what does he bring to the cabinet?

He keeps his post and he brings continuity to the cabinet. And he actually is one of the three who is quite good in his work. And as you said, everybody in the West knows him. He is very articulate. He knows the situation. He has been in Afghanistan and he has been the Foreign Minister of the Northern Alliance for a long, long time, so he knows all the players outside and inside Afghanistan.

I think his staying in that post is important for the government and for President Karzai who, as he says, he wants to have ministers with whom he can work. But, again, he is one of the people that the other ethnic group of Afghanistan, the Pashtuns, wanted him out. So we will see how it plays out.

Interesting. So, does this now make for, do you think, a more unsettling situation in Afghanistan, more instability, if these are members of the cabinet whom you think will be a lightning rod for some dissent?

It looks like it might be, although the feelings are mixed. I heard a large number of the Loya Jirga members speak about the situation, and most of them seemed quite happy, and they said that they will give it a chance. But on the other hand there were quite a few who were strongly against it, and they were objecting, and their objection was that there isn't any meaningful change.

Only one minister has been removed from the trio, or has resigned, and he too has been offered the post of Minister of Education. On the other hand, there were four or five other ministers who represented, or at least were from the ethnic group, Pashtun, and they're out. So there were mixed feelings.

Interesting. We will keep in touch with you, and we'll be watching this story in the weeks and months ahead.

Spozhmai Maiwandi, Program Coordinator of the VOA South and Central Asia Division, thanks so much for joining us today.

Thank you.