KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- U.S. and NATO leaders said Wednesday they were upbeat regarding the announcement from Afghanistan that comprehensive elections were set for April 2014.
The Afghan Independent Election Commission set April 5, 2014, as the date for presidential and provincial council elections. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said the date is in line with decisions made by the Afghan President Hamid Karzai in July.
"We are especially encouraged by the IEC's pledge to increase inclusiveness of Afghan women in the electoral process, and by the participation of the security ministries in the announcement and their commitment to provide safe elections," an embassy statement read.
International forces deployed in Afghanistan are to leave the country by 2014. NATO and U.S. defense leaders say Afghan forces are taking the lead in areas populated largely by civilians.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the IEC's announcement was a key benchmark in the country's evolution.
"The elections present an historic opportunity for Afghanistan. Allies and (International Security Assistance Force) partners look forward to a democratic process, in accordance with the constitution, which will contribute to stability, security and prosperity," he said in a statement.
Previous elections have been criticized for a lack of transparency.