WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Afghanistan may take a step backward if presidential and provincial elections next year are fraudulent, the House foreign affairs committee chairman said.
"Free and fair elections are essential to establishing a stable Afghan government capable of preventing Taliban-induced chaos," Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Wednesday.
Afghanistan holds provincial council and presidential elections in April. Elections in 2009 were seen as skewed in favor of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is ineligible to compete next year because of term limits.
"A repeat of the widespread election fraud seen in 2009 would almost certainly undermine Afghans' faith in their government, dangerously setting back the country," Royce said.
The Independent Election Commission in Afghanistan said this week it met with 8 of the 11 candidates cleared to compete in the April presidential contest. The three absent candidates sent campaign representatives in their place.
Committee Chairman Ahamd Yusuif Nuristani said the IEC is committed to holding a transparent and credible election.
International forces deployed in Afghanistan are preparing to end their combat obligations next year.
"Afghans will determine their future, not us," Royce said.