A wide open Afghan presidential race kicks off as candidates permitted to submit their names

Afghanistan's presidential race is kicking off, with authorities accepting nominations of would-be candidates.

Monday marks the start of a wide open campaign whose winner will face numerous challenges including the final phases of the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces amid a relentless Taliban insurgency.

The election is set for April 5. Incumbent President Hamid Karzai, who has led Afghanistan most of the years since the Taliban government was ousted in 2001, is barred from running again.

Candidates have until Oct. 6 to submit their names, along with a hefty fee and voter identification information of 100,000 people backing them.

There are no clear favorites, but speculation in recent days has focused on Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul.

However, no major candidates are expected to submit their nominations until closer to Oct. 6.