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Bay Area residents react to Afghan official's ouster
Aman Mehrzai
Inside Bay Area

President Karzai reshuffles his cabinet to remove dissidents from power

FREMONT — Days after visiting Fremont, the foreign minister of Afghanistan has been replaced by an Afghan-German official.
Rangeen Dadfar-Spanta, former presidential adviser on foreign affairs, will replace Dr. Abdullah, pending approval from the Afghan parliament.

The change was part of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's efforts to reshuffle his entire cabinet, the first such move since last year's parliamentary elections.

In a visit to Fremont on Friday, Abdullah warned Afghan Americans of a continued threat to the stability of their homeland, despite positive steps to curb escalating violence in the southeastern part of the country.

Several times throughout his speech, Abdullah blamed Pakistan for not making a serious effort to control cross-border attacks by local Pashtuns and foreign fighters from Pakistan's unruly Northwestern frontier province, which borders Afghanistan.

The replacement of Abdullah has sparked outrage among some East Bay Afghan Americans who feel the move is an effort by Karzai to remove all former mujahedeen— "freedom fighters"— from power, an act U.S. officials havesupported.

"Who kicked the Taliban and al-Qaida out of power?" asked Aziz Omar, owner of the popular restaurant De-Afghanan in the Centerville district of Fremont. "It was the Northern Alliance, and Dr. Abdullah is one of those who gave Afghanistan our independence."

The reason for Abdullah's removal might stem from his criticism of Pakistan, Omar said. "(It) is just an effort by the Karzai regime to appease Pakistan and America."

Another East Bay man who wished to remain anonymous believes Karzai next will target other office holders, to rid the government of those connected to the Northern Alliance.

"It is known that Dr. Abdullah is on bad terms with Pakistan," said a male Fremont resident. "They will go from top to bottom. Next it will be the governors and anyone else involved with the mujahedeen."

Atiqullah Atifmal, the Afghan consulate general of Los Angeles, disputes the idea.

"This is not an effort to remove any of the former mujahedeen of Afghanistan," said Atifmal. "It is simply for the betterment of the government and for the people of Afghanistan."

The only warlord remaining in Karzai's cabinet is Herat's Ismail Khan.

Sa'id Tayeb-Jawad, Afghan ambassador to the United States, said such cabinet reshuffling is common in the Karzai regime.

"This is not new," said the ambassador. "This is a part of the democratic process. The president has made his decision, and now it will go to the parliament for approval."

Fremont resident Faridoon Ahrary said he felt Abdullah's removal was needed.

"Change is good," said Ahrary. "We constantly need change in Afghanistan to bring fresh minds with fresh perspectives (for) progress."

Abdullah, who has been visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington, D.C., this week, might return to Afghanistan by Friday, said Ashraf Haidari, Afghanistan's first secretary of political affairs.

Abdullah could not be reached for comment. Sources say he was offered several lower positions in the government but refused.

Other removed cabinet officials include Massouda Jalal, who ran against Karzai in 2004, the first woman to ever run for president.

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