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Afghan parliament purges Cabinet ministers

Afghanistan's parliament has voted to sack the foreign minister and two other Cabinet members. The dismissals come as Afghanistan is mired in an economic crisis and widening Taliban insurgency.

The Afghan parliament sacked three Cabinet lawmakers Saturday, a sweeping move that underlined the fragility of President Ashraf Ghani's government. No-confidence votes in parliament stripped Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Public Works Minister Mahmood Baligh and Labor and Social Affairs Minister Nasreen Oryakhel of their posts.

All three were fired for alleged shortcomings in their performance and their failure to spend all allocated budgetary funds on time, with their dismissals being in accordance with provisions in the Afghan constitution that give parliament the power to sack ministers. Some 14 other ministers are due to face similar confidence votes.

The firings come at a time of fragility for the Afghan government. Former rivals Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have presided over an uneasy alliance that also includes the volatile vice president General Rashid Dostum and has featured regular rows between the main leaders. Add to this the fact that the Taliban insurgency is threatening security across Afghanistan, and the move creates further pressure the national unity government, which has been mired in infighting ever since it was set up following the disputed election of 2014.

Missed deadline

Patched together with US backing after accusations of electoral fraud on both sides, the Kabul government was supposed to have overseen fresh parliamentary elections and a constitutional grand council to re-establish political legitimacy.

But a two-year deadline has come and gone with none of the promised steps taken, leaving question marks over the future of the government at a time when political uncertainty is already being stoked by rising ethnic tensions.

In another sign of the continued divisions splitting the country, a suspected suicide attack on Saturday claimed by the Taliban killed at least four people at the largest US military base. That follows a deadly attack against the German diplomatic mission in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Afghanistan's conflict has prompted NATO forces to step up airstrikes to support the struggling Afghan government. But civilian casualties caused by NATO forces have been one of the most contentious issues in the 15-year campaign against the insurgents, prompting strong public and government criticism.

jar/tj (Reuters, AP)

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