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Afghan Parliament Rebukes Karzai by Rejecting Most Cabinet Picks

Afghanistan's parliament dealt a blow to President Hamid Karzai Saturday, rejecting most of his nominees for a new Cabinet.

It took parliament hours to count the yellow paper ballots cast secretly by more than 200 lawmakers. But after each of the nominees was deemed either "accepted" or "rejected," the verdict was clear.

Parliament gave a vote of no confidence to 17 of the 24 Cabinet nominees picked by President Hamid Karzai.

Among those rejected was Ismail Khan, a former warlord accused of ruling western Herat province like a tyrant. Mr. Karzai had hoped the power-broker would serve a second term as energy minister.

The Cabinet's only female member also lost her job as Women's Affairs minister by just two votes.

Forming the Cabinet is Mr. Karzai's first test of governance after he secured a second term in office in elections marred by rampant fraud last August.

The Afghan leader has pledged his new government will not be as corrupt as the last. But many of his nominees served in the previous Cabinet, which critics say was full of ineffective political cronies.

Despite the concerns, Cabinet experience appears to have helped incumbent Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar. Parliamentary speaker Mohammad Yunus Qanoni says Atmar will keep his post by 147 votes of confidence. The incumbent ministers of Defense and Finance also were approved. The three are key players in Afghanistan's war and reconstruction. Fawzia Kufi, a member of parliament from Kabul, says those ministers were appointed with the confidence of the people.

She says the ministers are facing Afghanistan's biggest challenge - security - and that they should refocus their efforts to establish new security measures across the country.

As the parliamentary voting took place in Kabul, President Karzai was visiting tribal elders in Helmand province. He was accompanied by General Stanley McChrystal, the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

On the trip, President Karzai condemned foreign air strikes that kill innocent civilians in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaida. He pledged to work with foreign troops to ensure security and reconstruction in the province.

The task could prove difficult without a fully functioning government, however. Mr. Karzai must submit new Cabinet nominees for parliament's approval before the work can officially begin.