WASHINGTON, April 5 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday hailed the elections in Afghanistan as "critical" to securing its democratic future and continued international support, while pledging to continue the U.S. partnership with the new Afghan government.
Obama congratulated Afghans on the "historic elections," which he said will usher in the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan's history and which represent "another important milestone" in Afghans taking full responsibility for their country as the U.S. and its partners draw down forces, the White House said in a statement.
"These elections are critical to securing Afghanistan's democratic future, as well as continued international support, and we look to the Afghan electoral bodies to carry out their duties in the coming weeks to adjudicate the results," Obama said.
"The United States continues to support a sovereign, stable, unified, and democratic Afghanistan, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the new government chosen by the Afghan people on the basis of mutual respect and mutual accountability," he added.
The polling for Afghanistan's presidential election was held on Saturday in a largely peaceful manner despite some attacks and complaints, Afghan election officials said. The voters had also cast their votes for the provincial councils candidates at the same day.
The leading presidential candidates are former Foreign Ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zulmai Rassoul, as well as former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.
Washington is planning to complete its troop pullout from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but it has failed so far to reach a bilateral security agreement with outgoing President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai has refused to sign an agreement that allows for and grants legal immunity to residual American troops, who will be tasked with training and assisting Afghan forces as well as conducting counterterrorism operations beyond 2014 after most American and NATO combat troops exit. The Obama administration now hopes to conclude the security pact with Karzai's successor to be elected in this election.
KABUL, April 5 (Xinhua) -- Afghans began voting on Saturday morning to elect a new president for the next five years in the first transfer of power through polling. The polling opened at 7:00 a.m. (local time) and will close at 4:00 p.m.
Polling for provincial council seats is also being held across the country. Full story