President's brother to pull out of Afghan election: officials

March 06, 2014 - 8:42:48 am

KABUL: Afghan former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul was set to secure a major boost to his presidential election campaign on Thursday, with the brother of current leader Hamid Karzai dropping out of the race and endorsing him.

Rassoul, a softly-spoken loyalist of the current president, called a joint press conference in Kabul, where Qayum Karzai was expected to announce his support.

"The result of negotiations on an alliance will be revealed at the press event," a spokesman for Qayum Karzai told AFP.

Officials from both campaign teams, who declined to speak on the record, confirmed that Qayum Karzai was due to withdraw from the race. 

President Karzai, who is constitutionally banned from standing again after serving two terms, has pledged not to publicly endorse any candidate in the April 5 elections.

But his brother's endorsement of Rassoul would be widely seen as a signal that Rassoul is the incumbent's favoured choice to lead Afghanistan into a testing new era, without the aid of NATO combat troops to fight the Taliban insurgents.

The NATO combat mission ends in December, though a small number of US troops may stay in Afghanistan on training and counter-terrorism operations if a long-delayed security deal is signed with Washington.

Nearly 13 years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan remains in a parlous condition, despite billions of dollars of military and development aid pouring into the country.

Afghanistan's future financial prospects are a major cause of concern, with a US watchdog this year describing the country's economic indicators as "not promising".

"Afghanistan relies on international assistance to pay most of its civilian operating and development budgets as well as the bulk of its security costs," said the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Qayum Karzai's withdrawal would leave 10 candidates in the race, including opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah, who came second in the chaotic and fraud-riddled 2009 election, and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani. (AFP)