BRUSSELS, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- A successful transfer of power in Afghanistan is necessary for the stability of the country, U.N. special envoy Jan Kubis told NATO defense ministers.
Afghanistan holds provincial council and presidential elections in April. There are more than 2,700 candidates cleared to run for seats in provincial councils and 11 candidates competing to replace Hamid Karzai, who's ineligible to seek a third term as president.
Kubis told NATO defense ministers gathered in Brussels the political transition in Afghanistan was moving ahead despite "pressing uncertainty" caused by the lack of a security framework outlining international military commitments beyond 2014.
Karzai said he'd leave the agreement to whoever takes his place after the election. U.S. and NATO officials have said that endangers not only the security commitment but also Afghanistan's future.
"Under these circumstances, the timely and successful transfer of political power through the April 2014 presidential and provincial council elections gains even more weight as the critical event for the unity and stability of Afghanistan," Kubis said in a statement Thursday.
Nevertheless, he said the political contests under way in Afghanistan have been inclusive and encouraging.
April elections will mark the first time power is transferred peacefully from one democratically elected Afghan government to the next.