Afghanistan, US Agree on Strategic Agreement

Afghanistan and the United States have finalized a strategic partnership agreement outlining their relationship following the 2014 withdrawal of Western combat troops from the country.

A statement from Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office says the draft agreement was initialed Sunday by Afghan National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta and U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker during a ceremony in Kabul.  The agreement is now ready to be signed by U.S. President Barack Obama and Mr. Karzai.

Spanta congratulated both countries and said the document provides "a strong foundation for the security of Afghanistan, the region and the world." He also said that he will brief the lower house of Afghanistan's parliament Monday on the content of the document, while Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasool will brief the parliament's upper chamber.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall praised the draft agreement, saying it supports “an enduring partnership with Afghanistan that strengthens Afghan sovereignty, stability and prosperity" and that contributes to the shared goal of defeating al-Qaida and its extremist affiliates.

U.S. officials say President Obama expects to sign the document before a NATO summit in Chicago next month.

Negotiations on the agreement saw progress recently after the U.S. agreed to Afghanistan's demand for full control over the U.S.-run Bagram prison and an end to controversial special forces night raids against Taliban insurgents.

President Karzai had also said he wanted a written commitment of $2 billion a year from the United States after the withdrawal.

U.S. officials said they could pay up to about $4 billion a year to fund Afghan forces. But they also said the strategic pact is not meant to be a detailed aid package, but rather a broad framework committing both sides to continue to work together for years to come.

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