Afghan president launches re-election bid amid worsening security

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani launched his re-election campaign on Sunday, promising to start peace talks with the Taliban after decades of war and to transform his nation into a trade hub.

The 70-year-old, US-trained former World Bank official came to power in 2014 after winning a bitterly disputed election marred by accusations of cheating.

He is widely expected to win again.

Having taken office as most foreign troops were leaving, with a much-reduced NATO alliance mission focused mainly on training local forces, his government has struggled to combat a growing Taliban insurgency.

Tens of thousands of soldiers, police and civilians have been killed in the last five years, leaving Afghans weary of endless violence and widespread corruption in public life.

Underlining the threat, a powerful blast hit Kabul on Sunday evening, killing one person and wounding a dozen more.

Ghani’s vice-presidential running mate Amrullah Saleh was injured.

Earlier, as campaigning began for the September 28 vote, Ghani had told a crowd: “Peace is coming and talks will definitely begin. We want to end this bloodshed.

“Why I am running again is because I want to turn Afghanistan into a regional hub for trade and a center of civilization,” he added, pledging that Afghanistan would eventually shake off its dependence on foreign aid.

The election has become inextricably linked with the peace process, which has grabbed headlines for months but is yet to produce a major breakthrough.

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