Afghanistan government replaces Hajii Zahir, Marjah’s district chief

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Haji Zahir talks to local shop owners during a meeting at the Marjah District Center in June. Zahir was replaced with little fanfare by the Afghanistan government this week. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Benjamin Crilly/Marine Corps)

Haji Zahir talks to local shop owners during a meeting at the Marjah District Center in June. Zahir was replaced with little fanfare by the Afghanistan government this week. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Benjamin Crilly/Marine Corps)

In a move made with little fanfare, the Afghanistan government unceremoniously replaced the district leader  in the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah this week.

Haji Zahir, in the post for only a few months, was replaced by another Kabul official, Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, commander of Marine forces in Afghanistan, told NPR during an interview Monday.

I can report to you, as a matter of fact, that Haji lost the job yesterday. He was replaced by a new governor who has come down with some experience from Kabul to take over.

They swapped yesterday, they swapped positions. They did so very peacefully and with good feelings on both sides. Haji Zahir did a lot. He did a lot. He has been governor there during very traumatic period obviously. He got the district center started, and began to get the beginnings, I think, of a local government, based on shuras, based on a civil council that he gathered of local elders who could advise him on issues.

Zahir had served as a regular face for Afghan civilians to interact with, but had limited experience as an administrator — never a good start for a fledgling local government in shambles.

The Washington Post mentioned the the personnel change at the base of an article on Afghanistan this morning, saying that Zahir was “initially praised by U.S. officials but ultimately appeared unwilling to engage in the nitty-gritty of governance.”

UPDATE: The Associated Press is reporting that Zahir has been replaced as part of what an Afghan government spokemsan characterized as a “reform procedure.”  Zahir said that he was told of the decision earlier this week and he has introduced his replacement, Abdul Mutalib.

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I’m a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.

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