Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday he was considering bringing the presidential election forward a year to avoid straining the country in 2014 when Afghan forces are due to take over full security responsibility.
His comments were in response to a question at a news conference on whether Afghanistan could handle both the election and the security transition in 2014.
Karzai confirmed he has been consulting with his advisors on whether they should speed up the security transition or bring the election forward.
"This is a question that I have had, and I have raised it with my inner circle, if we cannot have all that accomplished in 2014 because of the heavy agenda," he said at the news conference with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
"Can we bring either the transition and the return of international forces to 2013 so we can have the other agenda fulfilled in 2014 with less to do, or should we allow the transition process to complete itself in 2014, but bring the presidential election one year earlier to 2013."
Karzai's second five-year term of office expires in 2014. Under the country's constitution, he cannot run for a third time, and the election must be held before the end of his final year.
Karzai said no final decision has been made about moving the vote up to 2013 and that such a decision would take a long time.
Afghan forces have already begun taking the lead security role in phases since June 2011, with full responsibility expected to be complete by the end of 2014.
Rasmussen, who was in Kabul for a one-day visit to discuss the security transition, said the plans are on track to meet the transition's 2014 deadline and that the alliance would not abandon Afghanistan after that date.
"And let me be clear; NATO is here as a partner for the long term; this is our message to the people of Afghanistan, to enemies of Afghanistan and to Afghanistan's neighbors," he said.
"We will not abandon Afghanistan after 2014. We will stay and assist. NATO is here as Afghanistan's partner,"
Rasmussen stated on Twitter after meeting Karzai.