July 12, 2010
Anna Christopher, NPR




In an interview airing tomorrow on NPR's Morning Edition, Marine Maj. General Richard Mills, commander of all NATO forces in southwest Afghanistan, tells NPR that the district governor for Marjah has been replaced. Mills tells NPR's Renée Montange that Haji Zahir "lost the job" and was replaced yesterday "by a new governor who has come down with some experience from Kabul." An extended excerpt is below.

The interview with Mills is airing tomorrow on Morning Edition; visit www.npr.org/stations for local stations and broadcast times. NPR's news blog The Two-Way is currently reporting details from the interview: www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/07/12/128473542/u-s-general-still-upbeat-despite-marjah-afghanistan-gov-t-shift

Zahir was appointed district governor of the area that includes Marjah in February 2010 - part of a plan to install a "government in a box" in one of the most violent areas of Afghanistan. An excerpt from Montagne's interview with Mills follows:

MONTAGNE: The U.S. State Department has said of him [Zahir], one of the things he lacks is managerial experience and help in administering his town and his district. Is that going to change soon? I guess I'm asking, the much-touted 'government in a box,' was that maybe over-sold, simply because the Afghanistan central government can't really provide that?

MILLS: Renee, very timely questions as a matter of fact. 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. And he did his best, I think, under some very trying times. They have now brought in a professional who I have not yet met. .We look for some improvement there in the government.

Morning Edition is public radio's most listened-to program with 13.3 million weekly listeners on 680 NPR Member stations nationwide. The two-hour weekday newsmagazine is hosted by Steve Inskeep in Washington, D.C. and Renée Montagne from NPR West in Culver City, Calif. For local stations and broadcast times, visit www.npr.org/stations