WASHINGTON - US officials are exploring the idea of establishing a chief executive slot below Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday. Citing an unnamed Afghan official familiar with the negotiations, the newspaper said that speculation is centering on former finance minister Ashraf Ghani as a possible chief executive under Karzai, who is expected to win a second term as president in Aug. 20 national elections. Ghani is running against Karzai in the election. But dissatisfaction with Karzai's leadership is prompting US officials to seek a technocratic chief executive to solve chronic problems of corruption and inefficiency that are fuelling the Taliban insurgency, the newspaper said. An unnamed aide to Ghani told the Post both US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and regional envoy Richard Holbrooke have recently visited him to explore the idea, a sign that the United States might be interested in an Afghan government with a more technocratic bent. The newspaper said Ghani holds a doctorate from Columbia University and formerly worked for the World Bank, gaining a reputation as a competent technocrat. A campaign aide to Ghani said Monday that both Ambassador Karl W Eikenberry and regional envoy Richard C. Holbrooke had made recent visits to explore the idea, a sign that the United States might be interested in an Afghan government with a more technocratic bent. The idea of a chief executive for Afghanistan has circulated before in recent months, and speculation at one point arose that former US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-American, was in the running.