KABUL – Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday rejected criticism that his proposed new Cabinet amounts to business as usual and is unlikely to do much to tackle the country's array of problems.
Karzai has been under strong international pressure to clean up corruption in his government, anger over which has helped fuel the Taliban insurgency.
When Karzai's nominees for the Cabinet were presented Saturday, many legislators complained that he was keeping ministers who had performed badly and that he was appointing new faces who may be in the pocket of warlords and regional power brokers.
Karzai dismissed the criticism at a news conference with Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme.
"They will be accountable and I will be accountable for removing the problems," he said.
Karzai meanwhile defended the mayor of Kabul, who this month was sentenced to four years in prison for corruption. Karzai previously said the mayor was a scapegoat and on Sunday he said he felt responsibility to defend someone who is "clean and honest."
Some legislators criticized the Cabinet nominations because there was only one woman — the Minister of Women's Affairs. Karzai on Sunday said he plans to form a new ministry for literacy that would be headed by a woman, and said he also plans to appoint women to a number of deputy minister positions.
Leterme, whose country contributes more than 500 troops to the international military forces in Afghanistan, reaffirmed Belgium's military and aid commitments.
The NATO-led forces in Afghanistan said in a statement Sunday that a Polish serviceman was killed the day before when his unit came under small arms fire in eastern Afghanistan.
NATO also said that a joint Afghan and international force on Saturday uncovered a large weapons cache in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. The joint unit discovered about 140 pounds of homemade explosive material, including six pounds of ammonium nitrate, which is used in making bombs, and parts for making a pressure plate and detonation cord.