KABUL -- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has registered as a candidate for Afghanistan's presidential election later this year, setting up a rematch with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
The two are among at least 14 candidates who have joined the race for the delayed vote, set for July 20.
"We will work for peace on behalf of a dignified and a painful nation, but we will not beg for peace from anyone,” Ghani said on January 20 in a speech after registering.
The 69-year-old also vowed to work for a more equal distribution of wealth among Afghans.
Ghani is seeking a second five-year term after being elected in a bitterly disputed 2014 vote that led to a U.S.-brokered power-sharing agreement with Abdullah.
The election comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to counter attacks from the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.
The United States has accelerated efforts in the past months to end the 17-year war by trying to persuade the Taliban to accept peace talks.
Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, said that "a strong government can solve the current crisis."
"The crisis this country has faced in the past 40 years has been because of lack of a strong government," he added.
Interior Minister Amrullah Saleh, a member of Afghanistan’s Tajik minority, has stepped down from his position to join Ghani's team as a candidate for the post of first vice president.
The presidential election will be held simultaneously with provincial and district council polls amid a deteriorating security situation.
On January 20, a Taliban suicide bomber targeted a convoy of provincial officials in the eastern province of Logar, killing at least seven members of the Afghan security forces, officials said.
They said the attack targeted the province's governor and intelligence chief, both of whom escaped unharmed.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.