KABUL, (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday he was considering changes to either the 2014 timetable for presidential elections or the planned transition of security to Afghan forces that year to avoid overloading the country with simultaneous change.
Under Afghanistan’s constitution, a presidential vote must occur before the end of 2014 to decide on a successor to Karzai, who must step aside after winning a second five-year term in 2009.
But after a series of bombings by the Taliban and the breakdown of peace talks between insurgents and the United States, there is worry that shrinking NATO troop numbers and fledgling Afghan forces may not be able to ensure security.
Karzai said he had been discussing the question with his close advisers for months.
“This is a question that I have had, and I have raised it with my inner circle, if we cannot have all that accomplished in 2014 because of the heavy agenda,” he told a press conference in Kabul with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
“Can we bring either the transition and the return of international forces to 2013 so we can have the other agenda fulfilled in 2014 with less to do, or should we allow the transition process to complete itself in 2014, but bring the presidential election one year earlier to 2013.”
“I have not had a final decision yet and it will not be soon.”
Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan William Patey told The Guardian newspaper this month that there “perfectly good arguments” why 2013 would be a better time to hold the presidential election.
Afghan security forces are due to take over security responsibilities from NATO by the end of 2014 when most foreign combat troops will leave.