Afghans line up to vote in presidential runoff election to decide Hamid Karzai's replacement

 

Amid tight security, Afghans lined up on Saturday to vote in a presidential runoff between two candidates who both promise to improve ties with the West and combat corruption as they confront a powerful Taliban insurgency and preside over the withdrawal of most foreign troops by the end of the year.

Whoever wins faces major challenges in trying to bolster Afghanistan's security forces against a relentless insurgency and improving the nation's economy and infrastructure at a time when international aid for Afghanistan is drying up

The presidential hopefuls - former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank official and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai - differ more in personality than in policy. Both have promised to sign a long-delayed security pact with the United States. That would allow nearly 10,000 American troops to remain in the country for two more years to conduct counterterrorism operations and continue training and advising the ill-prepared Afghan army and police.

President Hamid Karzai, who has grown increasingly alienated from his one-time US allies during his two terms in office, has refused to sign the pact.

Abdullah Abdullah, like his rival Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, has promised to sign a long-delayed security pact with the United States Abdullah Abdullah, like his rival Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, has promised to sign a long-delayed security pact with the United States

Many voters said they were eager to get the bilateral security agreement signed after watching Islamic extremists seize large sections of Iraq nearly three years after US troops withdrew from that country. Iraq's Shiite-led government had discussed with the Americans the possibility of a residual US force but the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.

The Taliban have intensified attacks ahead of the vote and warned people to stay away from the polls, but only minor violence was reported by midday. Security forces frisked voters before allowing them into polling stations and erecting new checkpoints around the city to search cars for explosives or other weapons.

Polls were due to close at 4pm local time although there was a possibility they could be kept open if turnout was high. Official preliminary results to be announced on July 2, final on July 22.

A bomb hidden in a trash can exploded about an hour before polls opened in a western district of Kabul, and a rocket struck elsewhere, but there were no casualties, officials said. Another bomb exploded near a polling station on the outskirts of Kabul.

Ahmadzai, 64 worked at the World Bank, and gave up his US citizenship to stand in a previous election Ahmadzai, 64 worked at the World Bank, and gave up his US citizenship to stand in a previous election  

Karzai, who has led the country since the US invasion toppled the Taliban in the months after the September 11, 2001 attacks but was constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, cast his ballot at a high school near the presidential palace.

"Today your vote will lead Afghanistan toward a better future, better government and a better life," he said to his countrymen. "Afghanistan is taking another step forward in a transition toward security, progress and stability."

AP

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories