MAY 4 2009 09:47h
The election is scheduled for Aug. 20 and Karzai confirmed last week he would stand again.
"I have taken this decision for the welfare and interest of the people of Afghanistan," Karzai, who has led Afghanistan since 2001, said of his decision to seek another term.
As the Aug. 20 election draws closer, Karzai appears to be in an all but unassailable position, with the opposition struggling to name a contender with a broad enough base of support to win.
Karzai spoke to reporters outside the offices of the Independent Election Commission in Kabul, flanked by his running mates, shortly after signing his registration form.
"We will endeavour to bring security, peace and tranquility to Afghanistan," he said. "As in the past, we will make mistakes ... but we will be in the service of the Afghan nation."
The United States is more than doubling its troops in Afghanistan this year, from 32,000 at the start of the year to a projected 68,000 by year's end.
Violence has reached its highest level since the Taliban's ouster and Obama has declared Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan to be a focus of U.S. policy.
Shortly after registering, Karzai left for Washington to meet U.S. President Barack Obama for the first time since Obama's inauguration. The talks will also be attended by Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari.
One possible rival to Karzai, Gul Agha Sherzai, a powerful governor with backing among Pashtun tribes in the south, withdrew from the race abruptly on Saturday, apparently to back Karzai.
In a sign of the opposition's difficulties, one of Karzai's running mates for two vice presidential posts, former vice president Mohammad Qasim Fahim, was a founder and leader of an opposition group until he quit to back the president this month.
For the second vice presidential post, Karzai retained Karim Khalili, who has occupied the post since 2004. Karzai is a Pashtun from the country's largest ethnic group, while Fahim and Khalili represent the second- and third-largest groups, the Tajiks and Hazaras, giving Karzai's ticket ethnic balance.
Other possible rivals include former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, former finance ministers Ashraf Ghani and Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi, and even possibly Afghan-born ex-U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad.
Most are technocrats with careers abroad and narrow political bases inside Afghanistan. They have until May 8 to register.
Karzai took power as part of an internationally brokered deal after U.S.-backed Afghan forces led by Fahim toppled the Taliban government in 2001 and has remained in office since, winning Afghanistan's first democratic presidential vote in 2004.
The Taliban, mounting a growing insurgency in the south and east of the country, described the election as a fraud by Washington and urged Afghans to boycott the polls.
In a statement on militant website alemarah1.org, Mullah Abdul Latif Mansoor, the head of the Taliban's political commission, said guerrillas would fight until all foreign troops left Afghanistan and the poll would not change their stance.
The choice of Fahim, a former leader of a guerrilla faction, could raise eyebrows among international donors who would like to see Karzai limit the influence of powerful ex-armed chieftains.
"You want a team that can move forward," said one senior international diplomat in Kabul. "Now they risk getting a team that will be seen as moving backwards, both in Afghanistan and even overseas."
Relations between Karzai and the new U.S. administration have been strained because of senior U.S. officials' open criticism of Karzai's effectiveness at tackling corruption, but U.S. officials have toned down their criticism lately.