Presidential elections are looming in Afghanistan. Next year is the end of Hamid Karzai's presidency, but who will be the next leader in charge?
Some in Afghanistan are urging Zalmai Rassoul, the Afghan foreign minister, to run for president, and it is widely claimed that he may be Karzai's preferred candidate.
Afghanistan should pass this test .... Security has not deteriorated, in some areas it has improved. We need better equipment for our forces to cope better with the challenges....
Of course there are challenges but I'm optimistic that we do go through.
But what is his appeal? And will he run? The clock is ticking - candidates must announce their intentions just next week. On October 7 it will be officially announced which candidates are going run in Afghanistan's next presidential elections.
"It is the first time in our history that an elected president will replace another elected president in Afghanistan .... I'm quite confident that this time the election will give a good result for the future of Afghanistan," Rassoul says.
With the country's very young population, many Afghans have only known one leader for the last 12 years - Hamid Karzai. So will Karzai be ready to give up power? And what qualities will the country's next president need?
"The most important quality the next president should have is to unify the Afghan people. He should become a symbol of unity of the Afghan people. That's the only way that the result of the election will be acceptable but also it will keep Afghanistan, because winning an election is something, but running a country is something more difficult .... Any Afghan today has the right to pick a candidate .... It's going to work much better this time - we have learned our lesson from the last two elections. We are better prepared," says Zalmai Rassoul.
As if conducting a presidential election in Afghanistan is not a difficult challenge in itself, next year the international forces will withdraw from the country.
Leaders in Afghanist and and the western-led coalition are making reassuring statements about the security situation but under the surface there is a widespread concern about what is to come.
"The enemies of Afghanistan may change their tactics, but they will not succeed, they will not undermine the trust we have build over the years and across this country. They will not divide us from our Afghan partner and friend, and they will not divert us from our mission, our strategy and our timeline. The Afghan people can be proud that next year your forces will be in the lead for security across the country," said NATO General Anders Fough Rasmussen.
So what are the challenges facing the country's security forces after the US withdrawal in 2014? And who will be Afghanistan's next leader?
On this edition of Talk to Al Jazeera we sit down with Zalmai Rassoul, Afghanistan's foreign minister, to discuss Afghanistan's current security situation, the withdrawal of the US-led forces, and the upcoming presidential election.
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