Afghanistan (search) will hold parliamentary elections on Sept. 18, its election commission announced Sunday, the next key step toward democracy after a quarter-century of war.

Election board chairman Bismillah Bismil (search) announced the date at a news conference in the capital, Kabul. The much-delayed vote will select provincial councils as well as the lower house of parliament.

After consulting the government and political parties, "we came to the decision to hold the polling on Sept. 18," the commission said in a statement. "It will provide Afghans the opportunity to choose their representatives."

Parliamentary elections are supposed to complete a political process agreed in Bonn, Germany after U.S. and allied Afghan forces drove out the Taliban in late 2001 for harboring Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden.