Reuters International

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan lawmakers approved government nominees as interior minister and attorney general on Saturday, offering a boost to a struggling administration that has been undermined by infighting since it was formed following a disputed election in 2014.

Parliament voted to confirm Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Jahid, a former army general, and Attorney General Mohammad Farid Hamidi, formerly a member of the Human Rights Commission, avoiding a major embarrassment for President Ashraf Ghani.

The two new appointees will be crucial to the government's top priorities, confronting the Taliban's growing insurgency and combating endemic corruption.

Both were nominated in February after the resignation of former interior minister Noor-ul-Haq Olomi, who had faced heavy criticism over deteriorating security in Afghanistan.

The relatively swift confirmation of two key appointees contrasts with wrangling over the defence portfolio, still formally held by an acting minister more than a year-and-a-half after the national unity government led by Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah was formed.

Afghanistan's main intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), is also without a permanent director after the former head resigned in December to protest against Ghani's decision to seek a rapprochement with Pakistan, which many in Afghanistan believe supports the Taliban.

Confirming Saturday's count, parliamentary speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi asked the government to present nominees for the two unfilled positions.

"We request both Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah to present us nominees for ministry of defence and NDS for a vote of confidence so that we can end the caretaker arrangement," he said following the vote for Jahid.

The failure to confirm senior security officials has hampered the battle against the Taliban and other insurgent groups, which Afghan troops are now fighting on their own since NATO ended its combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi and Mirwais Harooni, Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Paul Tait)

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 Reuters International