Published Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 | 8:33 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 | 8:33 a.m.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Candidates to replace Afghan President Hamid Karzai are facing off in the first televised debate of a crucial election campaign ahead of the planned withdrawal of NATO combat troops.
A successful election would mark Afghanistan's first successful democratic transfer of power. It will be a crucial test of whether the country can ensure a stable transition after years of war and while facing a Taliban insurgency that has vowed it will attempt to disrupt the election.
Reflecting the fears of violence, security was tight for Tuesday's debate with five of 11 candidates: Abdullah Abdullah, runner-up in the 2009 election; former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul; ex-finance minister Ashraf Ghani; ex-defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Karzai's brother, Qayyum Karzai.
Hamid Karzai is ineligible to run.