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Much of Afghan Cabinet to stay on

KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai will reappoint a number of key Cabinet members for his second five-year term, multiple members of the Afghan parliament said Thursday.

The lawmakers told McClatchy that Abdul Rahim Wardak, the minister of defense; Hanif Atmar, the minister of the interior; Amrullah Saleh, the head of the national intelligence directorate; Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatemi, the minister of health; Faruq Wardak, the minister of education; Col. Gen. Khodaidad, the minister of counter-narcotics; and Asif Rahimi, the minister of agriculture, all will be reappointed.

The list of Cabinet appointments will be sent to the Afghan parliament Saturday, but Karzai notified the parliament of his choices informally Thursday.

His selections are widely considered a key indicator of whether he's serious about tackling the widespread corruption in the Afghan government, which is crucial to the Obama administration's efforts to maintain congressional and public support for its decision to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

Reaction to Karzai's choices, which came at the end of a three-day anti-corruption conference he hosted in Kabul, was mixed.

"I think it's a mixed bag," Daoud Sultanzoy, a member of parliament, said of the reappointments. "Most of them seem politically motivated" to please foreign governments.

During a meeting earlier Thursday with international diplomats and Afghan citizens, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry signaled that the U.S. intends to maintain a strong military presence in Afghanistan long after July 2011, when President Obama plans to end his troop buildup.

Eikenberry warned, however, that, "After eight years of assistance to Afghanistan, many Americans and many members of Congress are impatient to see results."

"This is not a deadline, despite what some people in the United States and Afghanistan have said," Eikenberry said. He added that an American withdrawal in 18 months is "entirely based on the conditions that exist at that time."

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