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UPDATE 2-Afghan president reshuffles cabinet

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KABUL, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai reshuffled his cabinet on Saturday, moving the education minister to take over the Interior Ministry which administers the police force and which has been criticised for corruption.

As the war against the Taliban enters its eighth year, violence in Afghanistan has reached record levels and Western allies have pointed to a lack of good governance and endemic corruption as factors feeding the insurgency.

The appointment of Hanif Atmar to the Interior Ministry is likely to be praised by Karzai’s Western backers as he is seen as a capable administrator who has made great improvements in education and is seen as being free from any taint of corruption.

Karzai made the new appointments “in order to bring positive changes in good governance”, said the spokesman for the office of state minister for parliamentary affairs, Asif Nang.

The United States has poured more than $3 billion into training and expanding the Afghan National Police in the last two years, seeing the force as key to the fight against the Taliban insurgency as, unlike the army, it has bases in every town.

But the programme to reform the police has been hampered by corruption at the interior ministry, diplomatic sources say, where officials demand large bribes for the appointment of top officers who then recoup the money from lower ranks and ultimately the Afghan public.

The outgoing Interior Minister Zarar Ahmad Moqbel would become minister for refugees, while Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Farooq Wardak would become education minister, Nang said.

Other new appointments included the former governor of the southern troubled province of Kandahar, Asadullah Khaled, to the ministry of parliamentary affairs and Asef Rahimi to the agriculture ministry.

All the cabinet appointments must be approved by parliament which is dominated by former warlords anxious to maintain Afghanistan’s delicate ethnic balance in the government. (Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Matthew Jones)