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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Afghan Prime Minister Sworn In

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan's new prime minister reckons that history will judge how his interim government meets the daunting challenges of rebuilding a nation shattered by 23 years of war, deeply divided by ethnic and tribal loyalties and economically ruined.

"If we deliver to the Afghan people what we promise, it will be a great day, and if we don't, then we will go into oblivion," Hamid Karzai told a news conference in the war-wrecked capital following his inauguration Saturday -- the country's first peaceful transition in decades.

Karzai said his top priorities are security and economic revival, both rife with complications that will require delicate finesse to navigate, balancing tribal loyalties against national interests.

He emphasized unity during his inauguration, acknowledging he has little time to heal a nation whose last generation has known nothing but war.

Representatives from every province jostled to get through a metal detector and into the Interior Ministry for the ceremonies. Loudspeakers broadcast the proceedings to an overflow crowd milling outside.

Some 2,000 people crammed into the hall -- commanders in combat fatigues, tribal leaders and dignitaries in turbans and robes or Western suits. Some were returning from years of exile abroad, while others traveled Afghanistan's dusty, hazardous roads to reach the capital. The few women at the ceremony wore headscarves but not the all-enveloping burqa required by the Taliban.

Among the guests was General Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S.-led military campaign that brought down the hard-line Taliban regime after a five-year reign and uprooted Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network.

Outgoing president Burhanuddin Rabbani thanked the international community for its support against the Taliban, saying his country is "thirsty for peace."

"I promise you that I will fulfill my mission to bring peace to Afghanistan," Karzai said.

"Our country, as a result of the long war, has been distracted. We need hard work from all Afghans," he said. "We should put our hands together to be brothers and friends. Forget the painful past."

While armed British peacekeepers patrolled outside, Karzai signed the oath of office, then swore in his 30-member Cabinet that includes two women.

Karzai told reporters the peacekeepers were a symbol of the international community's commitment to Afghanistan. He said they would not patrol the streets of Kabul and their presence would be temporary until a national army and police force can be established.

U.S. warplanes still patrolled the skies, although finding few targets to bomb. But one raid last week may have been a mistake.

Local Afghans have contested U.S. assertions that its aircraft had attacked a convoy of al-Qaida leaders, saying at the scene Saturday that the dozens of dead were innocent villagers and tribal elders.

Residents of Asmani Kilai in eastern Paktia province said the strikes, lasting seven hours from Thursday night, killed 50 to 60 people and destroyed 15 vehicles from a convoy of tribal elders bound for Kabul for Saturday's swearing-in of Karzai. (AP, Reuters)