Afghanistan's Karzai considers change in election timetable
By Rob Taylor and Jack Kimball
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday he was considering changes to either the 2014 timetable for a presidential election or the transition of security to Afghan forces that year to avoid overburdening the country.
Fear is mounting among Afghans and foreign governments alike that the planned pullout of most NATO combat troops by the end of 2014 and an election in the same year could see the country engulfed in conflict and authorities too stretched.
Under the constitution, a vote must be held before the end of 2014 to elect on a successor to Karzai, who has to step aside after winning a second five-year term in 2009.
There is worry that shrinking NATO troop numbers and fledgling Afghan forces may not be able to ensure security following a series of bombings by the Taliban and the breakdown of peace talks between insurgents and the United States.
Karzai said he had been discussing the question with close advisers for months, but that no decision had been taken and it would not be made soon.
"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 news 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."
Britain's ambassador to Afghanistan, William Patey told the Guardian newspaper this month that there are "perfectly good arguments" why 2013 would be a better time to hold the presidential election. Continued...