Karzai spokesman to resign

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Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, January 3, 2011; 9:27 AM

KABUL - Afghan presidential spokesman Waheed Omer announced Monday that he plans to resign, saying that his motives for leaving one of the most visible posts in President Hamid Karzai's administration are personal and not political.

Over the past year, Omer has repeatedly found himself addressing difficult questions about the extent of corruption inside the government; tensions with the United States over the war; allegations of electoral fraud; and Karzai's mental health. He cited none of those issues at a news conference, however, saying his choice to step down was a "normal decision by a civil service worker."

"To be clear, I have been thinking about this for some time," Omer said. "There is nothing that relates this to a political issue."

There have been other recent high-profile defections from the Afghan government, most prominently Hanif Atmar as the minister of interior and Amarullah Saleh as the intelligence chief. Both were pushed out in June after the Taliban attacked a peace conference in Kabul. Saleh has subsequently expressed doubts about the country's direction under Karzai, a sentiment shared by others close to the Afghan president as relations with the United States have become increasingly strained.

Before joining the presidential palace, Omer worked as the spokesman for Karzai's 2009 reelection campaign. He is comfortably fluent in English and the languages of Afghanistan.

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