The U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement signed Tuesday by U.S. President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai is being greeted with mixed feelings in and outside of Afghanistan.
While the strategic partnership deal could pose new challenges to Afghanistan, many believe it helps end any prevailing confusion about the nature of U.S.-Afghan relations once all foreign combat troops leave the country in 2014.
Afghan lawmaker Shukria Barekzai says it is early to comment on the fate of the deal once it is presented to parliament.
"It is very early to say that the parliament may pass [it] or not, but for my point of view as long as it is good for the country and good for the Afghan people we would like to vote for it," said Barekzai. "We would like to accept that partnership with a very clear stand, the stand which gives us and assures the Afghans that Afghanistan will be a prosper[ous] country, which Afghans deserve. And of course, it is a very long way for us to walk, but we have to achieve, what we should."
Kabul-based independent researcher Omar Sharifi says that the strategic bilateral agreement also sends a strong message to the Taliban and other insurgent groups that they will not be allowed to return Afghanistan to the civil war of the 1990s.
"But the main question remains with almost every single Afghan right now, especially in the decision-making circles, will we have enough capacity to implement this agreement and to show that we are capable both structurally and in terms of politically thinking to be a good partner in this agreement," said Sharifi.
President Obama signed the agreement with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai during Tuesday's unannounced visit to Kabul. The document defines the role of the remaining American forces in Afghanistan after 2014, with troops staying on to support counterterrorism and training efforts.
Analysts in neighboring Pakistan, including former ambassador to the U.S. Maliha Lodhi, believe winding down the Afghan war can have a far-reaching effect on regional stability.
"For 11 years Pakistan has wanted to hear these kinds of words from an American president that the war is ending, and the first time, I have heard an American president talk about a negotiated peace with the Taliban," said Lodhi. "President Obama, it was very significant, said in his speech that his administration was in direct discussions with the Taliban. So overall, I think, the president's speech would be welcomed by Pakistan."
Lodhi says Pakistan has been unable to successfully crack down on Islamist insurgents along its border with Afghanistan partly because the presence of foreign troops next door has helped fuel militancy in the region.