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Afghanistan: lawmakers sack defense, interior ministers over border violence

Angry lawmakers move against ministers as border violence increases.

Afghanistan parliament 2011 6 23Enlarge
Members of Parliament wait for Afghan President Hamid Karzai to inaugurate the new parliament in Kabul on January 26, 2011. Karzai opened Afghanistan's parliament on January 26, ending a week-long stand-off with the newly elected MPs who had threatened to inaugurate the legislature with or without him. (Shah Marai /AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan's parliament today voted to dismiss Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi for failing to curb border violence with neighboring Pakistan and not doing enough to protect top officials, reported the Associated Press

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Why exactly Afghan President Hamid Karzai did not challenge the vote was unclear, said Reuters, but the move will likely further complicate NATO efforts to stabilize the region before international troops pull out of the country in 2014.

Parliament's lower house speaker, Abdul Raouf Abrahimi, pressed Karzai to "introduce new ministers for these positions as soon as possible," reported AP.

Whether or not the ministers will have to clear out right away remains open to question, but US officials will be watching developments closely because, according to AP, Wardak was "one of the top Afghan officials most trusted by Washington."

Lawmakers voted against Wardak 146 to 72 and Mohammadi 126 to 90 -- 124 votes were needed for their dismissal, said AP.   

Karzai has been known to extend the nomination process for new ministers for months on end, effectively leaving unwanted officials in their posts, said AP, but it was not clear whether that's how this will play.

The parliamentarians were frustrated by the ministers inability to stop the recent assassinations of prominent officials and were angered by cross-border shelling from Pakistan, said AP. The ministers were also asked about allegations of corruption. 

Afghanistan recently stepped up its military presence near its volatile border with Pakistan, where the Pakistani army has been launching attacks they say are targeted at militant groups but which Kabul claims indiscriminately takes the lives of many Afghan villagers, according to Reuters

Last week, Afghanistan's intelligence head accused the Pakistani army of hitting the region with 2,100 rockets in the last four months alone, said Reuters.