KABUL, Afghanistan – Would-be candidates for the presidency of Afghanistan have through Oct. 6 to formally declare their intentions, and it's anyone's guess who will end up running and who will win. Afghan politics are largely about patronage and being on the winning team, so many potential candidates may wait to submit their names toward the end of the registration period, once they have a better sense of who else is running.
There's no shortage of speculation about potential nominees for the April 5 vote, however. The following are some of the names being floated:
ZALMAI RASSOUL: Serves as Afghanistan's foreign minister, and at this early stage is considered the favorite in the race. Rassoul is a former national security adviser to the government who has tended to stay out of the limelight, and could up end being a consensus candidate among many political factions in the country. He has a medical degree and is fluent in five languages, including French, English and Italian.
ABDULLAH ABDULLAH: An opposition leader who unsuccessfully ran against incumbent President Hamid Karzai in the 2009 election. Abdullah is a seasoned politician as well as an eye doctor with a strong following among ethnic Tajiks in Afghanistan's north. He also was a close aide and adviser to the late Ahmad Shah Masood, the Northern Alliance rebel commander famed for his resistance to Soviet occupation and the Taliban.
ASHRAF GHANI: A well-known academic with a reputation as a technocrat and being somewhat temperamental, Ghani chairs the commission in charge of transitioning responsibility for security from the U.S.-led coalition to the Afghan security forces. Ghani is a former finance minister who ran in the 2009 presidential elections but got just 3 percent of the vote.
HANIF ATMAR: A former interior minister, Atmar is a leader of the Right and Justice Party, which has been critical of Karzai. Atmar also previously served as the minister of education and prior to that as the minister for rural rehabilitation and development.
FAROOQ WARDAK: The Afghan education minister has a lengthy resume, including working for the United Nations Development Program. Wardak has degrees in business and pharmacy and spent more than two decades as a refugee in Pakistan. In recent years, his duties have also included chairing the international affairs committee of the High Peace Council, which is trying to pursue peace talks with the Taliban movement.
ABDUL RAB RASOUL SAYYAF: Sayaf would likely be one of the more controversial candidates, at least among Afghanistan's foreign allies, due to his status as a warlord and allegations of past links to Arab jihadists including Osama bin Laden. Still, Sayaf is an influential lawmaker who fought against the Soviet occupation and the Taliban.