Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's powerful former national-security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar has announced plans to run in the April 2019 presidential election.
Atmar, once considered the second-most powerful official in Ghani's government, will be running against his former boss, who is seeking reelection in the April 20 vote.
The 50-year-old, a former interior minister, unexpectedly quit his role as national security adviser in August, citing major policy differences with the president, including on peace talks with the Taliban.
In February, Ghani made an unconditional offer of negotiations to the Taliban, which has waged a deadly, 17-year insurgency against the Western-backed government.
Announcing his candidacy on November 28 in an interview with Tolo News, Afghanistan's largest broadcaster, Atmar said he would welcome talks with the militants but would not accept the return of a “Taliban regime” in Afghanistan.
An ethnic Pashtun, Atmar was a former intelligence officer in the communist government who lost a leg fighting the anti-Soviet mujahideen in the 1980s.
His announcement came as the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced on November 29 that the election would take place in April, after election officials said earlier this week that the vote could be delayed for at least three months.
The IEC said the registration of candidates would be held from December 22 to January 2. A preliminary list of candidates is due to be announced on January 8, it said.
Based on reporting by Tolo News and Reuters