Campaigning has begun for Afghanistan's first parliamentary polls since the fall of the Taleban in 2001, amid warnings by a human rights group that female candidates need more protection.

On Wednesday, authorities launched a month of official campaigning featuring free radio or television slots for each of the nearly 6,000 candidates running for the national assembly or for local councils.

The campaign will end on September 15, three days ahead of the September 18 vote.

The polls have already been pushed back twice from last year, and the United Nations has said it could be the most challenging elections the international community has ever organized.

Human Rights Watch says the fairness of the vote will be jeopardized if Afghan and international authorities do not do more to shield the nearly 600 female candidates.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.