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Afghanistan, US finalise strategic pact

23 April, 2012

KABUL: Afghanistan and the US agreed on a much-delayed strategic partnership deal on Sunday that is meant to govern the US role in Afghanistan as international forces draw down and for decades after, the two governments said.

US forces have already started pulling out and the majority of combat troops are scheduled to depart by the end of 2014. But the US is expected to maintain a large presence in the country long after that, including special forces, trainers and government assistance programmes.

The agreement is key to the US exit strategy in Afghanistan because it is expected to provide a roadmap for the remaining US forces and funding. It's also important for the Afghan government as a way to show its people that the US is not abandoning the country as it decreases its military presence.

"The document finalised today provides a strong foundation for the security of Afghanistan, the region and the world and is a document for the development of the region," Afghan National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta said in a statement issued by Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office. Spanta and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker initialed the document, according to the statement.

Regardless of the exact content of the deal, getting to any sort of final agreement is likely to be seen as a success given more than a year and a half of negotiations during which the entire effort appeared in danger of falling apart multiple times. Neither the US nor Afghan officials provided details about what the agreement says. It now awaits a review process in both countries and the signatures of Karzai and US President Barack Obama.

Afghan and US officials have long said that they hoped to sign the deal before a NATO summit in Chicago next month. But as talks dragged on and Karzai continued to announce new demands for the document, many had started to worry that they would miss their goal.

Much of the disagreement was about how to handle activities that the Afghan government saw as threatening its sovereignty, in particular, night raids and the detention of Afghan citizens by international forces. Those two major issues were resolved earlier this year in separate memoranda of understanding.

But then as recently as last week, Karzai said that he wanted the agreement to include a dollar figure for funding for the Afghan security forces a demand that would be hard for the Americans to sign off given the need for Congressional approval for funding. US officials have said previously that they expected the document to address economic and development support for Afghanistan more generally.

The final document is likely to be short on specifics. US officials involved in the negotiations have said previously that the strategic partnership will provide a framework for future relations, but that details of how US forces operate in the country will come in a later agreement.

End.

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