Afghanistan's Parliament approved appointments to vacant posts in President Hamid Karzai's Cabinet, marking another step toward democracy, even as his government struggled with resurgent Taliban militants.

Karzai nominated the candidates to fill slots left empty when Parliament rejected five of the 25 people he initially chose for his Cabinet in April. The Cabinet is the first approved by the Parliament since it was elected last year.

Its new members include the minister of women's affairs, Hosn Banu Ghazanfar, who is the dean of the literature and language faculty at Kabul University. She was supported by 159 lawmakers, garnering the most support of the five new ministers in Monday's voting. Some 54 voted against her nomination and 35 lawmakers were absent or abstained.

CountryWatch: Afghanistan

The other portfolios filled were the ministries of commerce and industries, economy and labor, transport and aviation, and culture and youth. All of the new ministers were educated abroad.

Growing cynicism about Karzai's government is diluting Afghans' enthusiasm over the progress toward democracy following the 2005 elections for the country's first representative Parliament in more than 30 years.

The government is increasingly viewed as ineffective, tainted by corruption, and failing to deliver security, services or jobs to much of the country.

Making matters worse, Taliban rebels have stepped up attacks this year, particularly in southern provinces, sparking the bloodiest fighting in nearly five years.

NATO forces have embarked on a mission to defeat the rebels and create the conditions for much-needed development to take root in the south. Nine NATO troops have been killed in the past week since the alliance took command of security.

Tom Koenigs, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, warned Monday that the Taliban still posed a threat to Afghanistan and that the insurgency will not be defeated quickly.

"We should be more careful if we are going to tell you that (the insurgency) is going to be over in a year," Koenigs told reporters.