KABUL - Afghanistan’s new cabinet was unveiled on Monday after three months of wrangling following the election of President Ashraf Ghani and the formation of a ‘national unity government’ in the wake of last year’s fraud-mired election.

Ghani was inaugurated in late September after signing a power-sharing deal with his poll rival Abdullah Abdullah. The ‘unity government’ deal was seen as saving Afghanistan from the risk of imminent civil war when both candidates claimed to have won the election in a stand-off that fanned long-standing ethnic tensions. But negotiations over ministerial posts brought politics to a stalemate and threatened to fuel the Taliban insurgency.

Abdul Salam Rahimi, Ghani’s chief of staff, read out the names of the 25 new ministers at the presidential palace in Kabul. The list will now go before parliament for approval. Three women were named in the cabinet, as ministers for higher education, information and culture, and women’s affairs. Allocating the ministries was fraught with difficulty due to Afghanistan’s complex ethnic divisions and rivalries.

Ghani, a former World Bank economist, is largely backed by Pashtun tribes of the south and east, while Abdullah, a former anti-Taliban resistance fighter, draws his support from Tajiks and other northern groups. Monday’s breakthrough comes at a sensitive time as Taliban insurgents push to exploit the end of NATO’s combat mission on December 31 after 13 years of fighting. Conflict still rages across Afghanistan, with a record number of civilian and Afghan security force casualties in 2014. About 17,000 US-led foreign troops will remain deployed this year, focusing on training the Afghan police and army and conducting a limited counter-terrorism mission.

‘There are a lot of new and less experienced faces who could be tested soon,’ Haroon Mir, a Kabul-based political analyst, told AFP. ‘Some names you can say are there because they actively supported one side in the election campaign. ‘Today’s move will calm people who have been waiting for a long time to see the new government, but it takes time to see if they are a better, less corrupt cabinet.’ Proposed defence minister Sher Mohammad Karimi and finance minister Ghulam Jilani Popal are both close to Ghani.

Nominee interior minister Noorul Haq Ulumi and foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani are both Abdullah supporters. Last year’s presidential election, which was meant to be the keystone legacy of the massive international development effort in Afghanistan, was marred by fraud and bitter disputes over the result. The US embassy said in a statement it ‘welcomes (the) nomination of the Cabinet of Ministers by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. ‘The United States looks forward to continued close cooperation with the government of Afghanistan,’ it added. The United Nations has said civilian casualties hit a new high last year with about 10,000 non-combatants killed or wounded - 75 percent of them by the Taliban. Ghani hopes to foster peace after decades of conflict, saying he is open to talks with any insurgent group. Hamid Karzai, president from 2001 until 2014, opened preliminary negotiations with the Taliban but they collapsed acrimoniously in 2013.