Karzai sacks country's Interior Minister, Security chief

     Afghan President Hamid Karazai has, on Sunday ousted his Security Minster as well as his Interior Minister in an unexpected decision. Their expulsion of Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and National Directorate of Security chief Amrullah Saleh is likely to further drive in the wedge between Washington and Karzai and exacerbate their already contentious relationship. Pentagon expressed solidarity with the Ministers praising them for their service to Afghanistan. The Washington Post quoted Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell as saying that both officials were "people we admire and whose service we appreciate." Atmar, Morrell added, "was one of the ministers we cared about." Atmar's efforts at cleaning up a corruption-riddled Interior Ministry were lauded in the US and it was his Ministry that was in charge of training and supervising the country's embryonic Police forces, whose training a the critical focal point for the additional 30,000 US troops to be deployed in the region. The Karzai administration's attempts at reaching a truce with the Taliban through negotiations has been a cause of worry for the US which supports the idea but is not entirely convinced of its feasibility. Differences over the approach to the Taliban- administration dialogue are said to be the probable causes leading to the Ministers' departure. "Atmar really disagreed with the reintegration of the Taliban into the police and the army. He had some problems with it, and frankly, we agreed with him," said a US official. The move could have been preemptive as Atmar is known to harbour Presidential ambitions and could turn out to be a strong contender for the post later. Meanwhile, Saleh, an ethnic Tajik, was a member of the Northern Alliance, the political and military movement that fought the Taliban during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s. His presence could have become a potential hindrance in the reaching a truce and this might have something to do with his ouster.

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