Afghans will go to the polls on April 5, 2014, to elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai as US-led forces leave the country.
"The third Afghan presidential elections since the downfall of the Taliban regime in late 2001 will be held on April 5, 2014," Fazal Ahmad Manawi, the chief of Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC), told a press conference, Xinhua reported.
The announcement came amid doubts that Afghan security forces could provide the necessary security for elections once NATO-led coalition forces, scheduled to withdraw from the country by the end of 2014, have left.
According to Reuters:
Tthe credibility of the vote will be vital to the security and stability of Afghanistan after the final foreign combat troops have left by the end of 2014.
Karzai, been under pressure from opposition groups to announce the date, according to Agence France-Presse, had previously denied speculation that the withdrawal of foreign troops would delay the poll.
The Wall Street Journal wrote that Western diplomats had called this month for Afghanistan to set an election date amid concerns that Karzai would seek toextend his term.
Re-elected in 2009 amid allegations of fraud, Karzai is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.
BBC cited critics of Karzai as warning that the president might work behind the scenes to ensure a political ally is elected to the presidency.
However, Karzai denied the claim, saying he was only interested in a peaceful transfer of power.
Highighting the challenges ahead, the WSJ reported that an Afghan policeman had shot and killed two British troops in Helmand province on Tuesday, with the Taliban claiming responsibility.
The paper, citing coalition figures, pointed out that at least 59 international troops had been killed by Afghan counterparts this year.