Afghanistan is marking 95 years of full independence.
But amid the pomp and ceremony in Kabul where President Hamid Karzai laid a wreath at the Monument of Freedom, the country remains politically paralysed, four months after first voting to find his successor.
Accusations of mass fraud have marked the electoral process. A fresh audit of ballots and an emergency power-sharing deal between rivals, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani and ex-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, are not guaranteed to resolve the crisis.
But, flanked by both men as he spoke in the capital, President Karzai showed optimism for the future.
“We are hopeful of having an outcome to Afghanistan’s elections soon. The Afghan nation is waiting impatiently to see an outcome to the agreements reached by our two brothers for the welfare of the people…so that Afghanistan can have a government which all the people can feel a part of,” he said.
But as Karzai spoke, Afghan security forces were battling hundreds of heavily-armed Taliban insurgents in Logar, a key province near the capital.
Militants have mounted increasingly intensive assaults as foreign forces pull out and Afghanistan braces to stand on its own feet militarily for the first time in nearly 13 years.
The country’s security arrangements beyond 2014 are unclear, as Kabul and Washington have yet to sign a bilateral security agreement designed to keep a small force of American soldiers in Afghanistan next year and into 2016.