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Afghan Defense Minister Announces Ethnic Shake Up

Afghanistan’s powerful Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim, criticized for favoring his fellow Tajiks from the Panjsher valley, said on Thursday he had reshuffled his ministry to make it more ethnically balanced. Fahim told a news conference he had appointed 16 new officials from other population groups to ministry posts, including a Pashtun as one of four vice defense ministers. “As you are aware, there has been talk that the Ministry of Defense did not have any ethnic balance. In order to change this perception, we have brought in new personalities,” he said. Ethnic and tribal differences have been at the heart of most of the disputes in Afghanistan since a civil war erupted after the Soviet Union ended its occupation in 1989. Pashtuns, the largest single ethnic group and traditional rulers of Afghanistan, have complained they have been largely left out of the new government that came to power after U.S.-led forces drove the Taliban from power in late 2001. Full Story

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