Afghan president dismisses chief of intelligence service

February 05, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

KABUL, Afghanistan - President Hamid Karzai removed Mohammad Arif Sarwari, head of the National Security Directorate, the Afghan intelligence service, yesterday in a move that many took as a sign of Karzai's growing confidence.

The dismissal, announced by the official Bakhtar news agency, came amid a flurry of new appointments in the past week, including four new provincial governors and many new regional police chiefs.

The appointments, coming soon after the approval of a new constitution, are part of a drive to improve efficiency and governance, aides to the president said, as well as an indication of Karzai's increasing influence. Foreign diplomats and military, United Nations and human rights officials had long called for Sarwari's removal.

The National Security Directorate is a Soviet-era relic that has been criticized in the past two years for rights abuses, spying on citizens and serving factional interests rather than those of the president and the country. Some Western diplomats have criticized the directorate's performance on intelligence matters.

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