It remains uncertain whether all of his nominees will be formally confirmed by the legislature in the coming days. However, Parliamentary lawmakers and political pundits have speculated that the reshuffle represents a political compromise designed to consolidate the President’s power ahead of the upcoming elections, to maintain factional support from key Tajik powerbrokers, and to keep control over the security apparatus of the state (Afghan MPs slam president’s selection of ministers’ Afghan Islamic Press, 4 September 2012.).
A closer examination of each of Karzai’s nominees illustrates the President’s overall calculus to set conditions for the distribution of power post-2014, particularly among the three crucial security ministries. Mohammadi’s appointment as Minister of Defense reveals the alliance between Karzai and First Vice President Marshall Fahim, reinvigorated in 2009, is alive and well. Fahim is Mohammadi’s principal patron and if installed, Mohammadi would maintain Tajik control over the Afghan National Army and Air Force. His appointment would also serve to keep Karzai’s political opposition fragmented ahead of the elections by co-opting pivotal Jamiat members. Karzai is well aware that the empowerment of Fahim’s network alienates other Tajiks, and this recognition formed the basis for his renewal of the alliance ahead of the last presidential election. Karzai’s elevation of Patang and Khalid may help to counterbalance the influence the President has extended to Fahim via Mohammadi, while further entrenching his own personal influence within the intelligence ministry in the latter case. With the exodus of foreign troops scheduled for 2014, control of the NDS through a powerful political proxy such as Khalid may facilitate a kind of ‘soft power’ strategy to contend with the influence of the Taliban and other opposition groups over the long-term. Such a strategy would mitigate the risk inherent to Karzai in relinquishing the armed forces to Jamiat.