Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah's office has indicated that the government intends to introduce the remaining nominees for unfilled cabinet positions to Parliament on Wednesday. If not this week, then government spokesmen have said the cabinet will be finalized following President Ashraf Ghani's trip to the United States.
The news comes over six months into the first term of the national unity government, and with just about 10 percent of its initial agenda items covered in that time, the new government has received growing criticism for its failure to form the last third of its cabinet. Negligence and corruption on the part of acting ministers, spilled over from the Hamid Karzai administration, has become a point of major public discontent around the country.
"We will do our best to introduce the remaining members of the cabinet tomorrow to the House of Representatives, but if despite our efforts it does not happen, then we will try to announce it after the trip of the national unity leaders to the United States of America," Abdullah's spokesman Mujeebul Rahman Rahimi said on Tuesday. "We will send the remaining cabinet members to Parliament for a vote of confidence then."
The Administrative Committee of Parliament was said to have met with the president on Monday night in order to discuss the cabinet as well as other pressing subjects, such as peace negotiations with the Taliban.
"The president has promised to announce the remaining members of the cabinet soon," Second Deputy of the House Nazeer Ahmad Ahmadzai said. "Last night, the administrative committee of the House had a meeting with the president and he made the promise to us."
Although the names of the likely nominees for the remaining cabinet positions have not been made public, government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to share the information, told TOLOnews that out of the 10 slots to be filled, three will be occupied by women.
Separately, the Chairman of the Afghan Senate, Fazel Hady Muslimyar, on Tuesday advocated for inclusion of the Taliban in the national unity government's cabinet. Likely encouraged by recent revelations of likely peace talks between Kabul and militant leaders, the senior Senator went so far as to call the Taliban "brothers," and said that if they can accept the laws of the land, then they should be included.
"You should ask the government whether they will bring the Taliban into the cabinet or not," Muslimyar told TOLOnews. "The Taliban are our brothers as well, and anyone who accepts our laws can come to this country and live. They are Afghan citizens, and our recommendation to them is that they should come to the country."
However, for now, open combat with the militants remains the norm, and the possibility of their leaders filling top government positions anytime soon seems tenuous. In fact, one of the major factors behind the urgency for the government to complete the appointment process for the cabinet, as well as provincial governments, is the lack of progress on security issues seen over the past six months.
At the moment, a major military operation, called Zulfeqar, is being conducted in southern Helmand province in attempt to clear the restive area of Taliban militants. Fighting has been waging for almost a month, and the offensive could prove a critical pivot for the Afghan national security forces in their battle against insurgents.
"The government has been behind in addressing security issues, bringing reforms to the electoral commissions and introducing the remaining members of the cabinet," Helmand MP Abdul Hai Akhunzada said on Tuesday. "The international community has lost its trust in the government as well," he added.
In total, 18 ministries and independent departments lack a minister or director. Although the Ministry of Interior (MoI) now has a new minister, it also went for months under the national unity government without one. And the contrast in performance between the ministry's time under an acting minister and under its new leadership is stark.
"During the times of Mr. Salangi, who served as the acting minister of interior, we had good programs, but now that we have a minister, we can clearly see the difference," MoI spokesman Sediq Seddiqqi said. "The Minister of Interior had good programs for Kabul and the provinces during his first days in office and started the major Zulfeqar operation in Helmand province, one of the major initiatives by the Minister of Interior."
The example of the Ministry of Interior may seem to bolster the argument made by national unity government leaders, which is that time is needed in order to select the most competent cabinet members possible. But, overall, many commentators say the delay in formation of the cabinet has had a net negative impact on the Afghan government's performance and credibility.