KABUL, Nov 3: More than a dozen senior Afghan officials were sacked in the first wave of a major government shakeup to bring unruly and corrupt provincial leaders into line, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said on Sunday.

Spokesman Fazal Akbar said the sacking of local commanders and intelligence chiefs, among others, was decided late on Saturday at an emergency cabinet meeting.

Akbar warned the sackings could spark unrest but said that the government was prepared to use “other means” if those dismissed refused to leave.

“There will be a little trouble of course. No one will want to leave voluntarily. The people and the government will join hands to get rid of them,” he said.

“This was the first measure of a government shakeup. We will see how we can instrument these decisions and then we will go forward.”

The sackings follow a warning less than a fortnight ago by Karzai to unruly factions within his government that he would strip regional warlords of their power unless they fell into line.

Karzai, who is struggling to exert influence over his own cabinet and the powerful warlords, said the government would no longer tolerate abuses of power which have been rife throughout the country since the fall of the Taliban regime last year.

Many commanders and officials would be replaced, but others would simply have their posts phased out, Akbar said.

In eastern Nangarhar province — one of the major suppliers of Afghanistan’s illicit opium exports — several officials were sacked for their links with the drug trade, Akbar said.

The directors of customs, agriculture and public works had also been axed, Akbar said, while other sackings come in areas plagued by repeated outbreaks of conflict.

Two security chiefs in the principal northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif were fired, including Sayeed Kamal, a powerful commander once in charge of five provincial districts.—AFP

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