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Afghan women line up to cast their votes, outside a polling station in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, Saturday, June 14, 2014. Despite Taliban threats of violence, many Afghans vow to cast ballots in Saturday?s presidential runoff vote with hopes that whoever replaces Hamid Karzai will be able to provide security and stability after international forces wind down their combat mission at the end of this year. (AP Photo/Kamran Shefayee)

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — The White House says Afghanistan's second round of presidential voting marks a major step forward on the country's "democratic path."

In a written statement, the White House praises "the courage and resolve" of the Afghan people in making their voices heard in choosing a new leader.

Official preliminary results are expected to be announced July 2.

The candidates are a former foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, and an ex-World Bank official and former finance minister, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (ahsh-RAHF' gah-NEE' ah-mahd-ZEYE').

Each has promised to sign a security pact with the United States that outgoing President Hamid Karzai has balked at.

It would allow nearly 10,000 American troops to remain in Afghanistan for two more years to conduct counterterrorism operations and continue training and advising the Afghan army and police.