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Afghanistan's Karzai rings the changes in security leadership

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a joint news conference with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (not pictured) at the prime
Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a joint news conference with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (not pictured) at the prime

By Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai named his second new interior minister in a year on Sunday, appointing presidential hopeful Umer Daudzai in the security job and underlining a sense of political fragility ahead of next year's presidential vote.

In the second major security appointment in as many days, the reshuffle could unsettle Western governments keen for stability as they prepare to withdraw most international combat troops by the end of 2014.

"In order to improve the managing of our security affairs, the appointment of Umer Daudzai as caretaker Minister of Interior has been approved by a presidential decree," said a statement from the Afghan Cabinet Secretariat.

Daudzai's appointment will be viewed through the prism of April's presidential election, given he is interested in running but is not allowed to hold a ministerial position if he does so.

The announcement comes a day after Karzai appointed senior security official Rahmatullah Nabil as the acting head of the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

The previous NDS head, Assadullah Khalid, was forced to step down for health reasons after being wounded in a failed assassination attack in December.

Both Daudzai and Nabil will have two months in the job and will require parliamentary approval to stay on longer, according to the Afghan constitution.

Daudzai, who until Sunday's appointment was the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, replaces former policeman Ghulam Mujtaba Patang. The statement made no reference to Patang, and he could not be reached for comment.

In late July parliament voted to dismiss Patang, saying he had been unable to tackle a worsening security environment. Karzai challenged the decision and said Patang would stay as acting minister while he sought legal advice from Afghanistan's Supreme Court.

Patang, a majority Pashtun and former police officer, had risen swiftly in Karzai's government, leading efforts to train police and volunteer militias, and forging close ties with Western donors as a liaison with NATO reconstruction teams.

Last August parliament voted to remove then Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and then Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi over a series of assassinations of top officials and incidents of cross-border fire with neighboring Pakistan.

(Writing by Dylan Welch; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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