KABUL, Jan 29 Afghanistan on Thursday announced presidential elections for Aug. 20, hoping a U.S. troop surge will improve security at a time when violence is at the highest levels since the overthrow of the Taliban.
Below are facts on five candidates expected to run in the presidential election. [For full story on election, click on ID:nISL383254].
Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's first elected president, since 2004:
* The 51-year-old Karzai, is an ethnic Pashtun from the same tribe as the Afghan royal family. He received a masters degree in Political Science in India in 1983 and then joined a small monarchist faction of the anti-Soviet mujahideen in Pakistan.
He served as deputy foreign minister after the fall of the Soviet-backed government in 1992.
At first supporting the Taliban, Karzai later worked from pakistan to overthrow the austere Islamists, returning to Afghanistan in late 2001 where he was appointed president of the country's interim government.
Karzai became the first democratically elected leader of Afghanistan in 2004. Endemic government corruption, slow development and civilian casualties caused by foreign forces, have eroded his public support. Karzai has hinted at running in the election, saying he has "a job to complete".
Ali Ahmad Jalali, former interior minister, 2003 to 2005:
* The 68-year-old Jalali, an ethnic Pashtun, received a masters degree in Military Science in Kabul in 1966. Jalali was a top military planner with the Afghan resistance after the Soviet invasion, and a colonel in the Afghan army.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1987 and apart from the years he served in Karzai's government, has lived in the U.S. where he is a professor at the National Defense University, Washington.
Dr. Ramazan Bashardost, member of parliament and planning minister, 2004 to 2005:
* The 43-year-old Bashardost is an ethnic Hazara who spent more than 20 years in France, where he received masters degrees in Law, Diplomacy and Political Science and a PhD in Law.
Openly criticising the government and accusing ministers of corruption, Bashardost has modelled himself as a man of the people. While briefly serving as planning minister, Bashardost was critical of the role of aid agencies in Afghanistan and later resigned under government and foreign pressure.
Bashardost is the only person who has said openly he will stand in the election and runs his campaign from a tent opposite parliament.
Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institute and finance minister, 2002-2004:
* The 59-year-old Ahmadzai, an ethnic Pashtun, received a PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University. Ahmadzai has spent more than two decades outside Afghanistan where he worked at different universities and the World Bank.
In 2002, he served as special adviser to the United Nations and later as finance minister under Karzai. In 2005, Ahmadzai founded the Institute of State Effectiveness in the United States aimed at promoting effective government. Ahmadzai lives in the United States but visits Afghanistan regularly.
Dr. Abdullah, Afghan foreign minister, 2001-2006:
* The 48-year-old Abdullah obtained a medical degree from Kabul University and worked as an ophthalmologist until 1985. A year later he joined the Panjshir Resistance Front against the Soviets and served as an adviser to the late Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Abdullah was foreign minister of the Northern Alliance from 1998 onwards, and after Massoud's assassination in 2001, became a dominant figure in the alliance. He was appointed foreign minister under Karzai's interim government, a position he held until 2006. He is seen as a prominent leader of the northern ethnic Tajiks, but himself is half Pashtun. (Reporting by Jonathon Burch; Editing by David Fox)