KABUL  - President Hamid Karzai is considering sacking or moving the governors of a fifth of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces as part of a shakeout of corrupt or underperforming officials aimed in part at soothing foreign donors.

Karzai is likely to replace seven governors on Thursday whose performance he considers unsatisfactory, including those in the volatile Baghlan, Wardak and Nimroz provinces in the north and southwest, as well as Takhar in the north, several government sources told Reuters.

Ehsanullah Tahiri, a spokesman for the Office of Administrative Affairs, confirmed that among those to be moved was Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal, a former army colonel who is liked by foreign diplomats but has been unable to make headway against Taliban insurgents. “They have not been able to improve good governance in their areas,” Tahiri said, declining to give further specifics.

Karzai in late July issued a decree ordering all ministries to cut down on nepotism and corruption, and told the Supreme Court to speed up existing probes into graft and suspect property dealings.

The 23-page decree, while less radical than Western donors had hoped, suggested a growing realisation within government that corruption must be addressed and senior figures prosecuted, with $16 billion of aid being made conditional on a crackdown. While the document was vague on time frames, Karzai’s office said improvements could be expected by the end of September.

Several cabinet ministers are also under a corruption cloud.

They include the finance minister, Hazarat Omar Zakhilwal, who has been accused of stashing more than $1m in overseas banks and properties.

Zakhilwal has promised to fight the accusations, which were aired on Afghan television.

Afghan media and government sources said Karzai was considering the extent of changes on Wednesday night, wary of too much political upheaval after parliament last month forced the removal of the defence and interior ministers.

The head of the Afghan High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption, Azizullah Lodin, said he did not expect changes in top positions as a result of Karzai’s decree.

“To stop corruption in Afghanistan, that is not possible as it is in the United States and England and other countries,” Lodin told Reuters in an interview ahead of the provincial shake-up expected on Thursday.