On surprise visit to Afghanistan, Obama signs key agreement with Kabul for ties beyond 2014

WASHINGTON, May 1: On a surprise visit to Afghanistan, President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed a strategic partnership agreement with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai to reaffirm American commitment to the country, beset by decades of conflicts.

The U.S. president’s unannounced visit was coincides with the first anniversary of the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in neighboring Pakistan..

Speaking at a joint news conference with the Afghan president,  Obama said “neither Americans nor Afghans asked for this war.”

He said with the newly signed agreement, he is “confident the Afghan people will understand the U.S. will stand by them.”

As per reports officials say the pact with Kabul covers security, economics and governance and spells out the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan beyond 2014, when most NATO forces are planning to conclude their combat role. It does not commit the United States to any specific troop presence but pledges American aid for Afghanistan for a decade after the withdrawal of the last U.S. soldiers.

The agreement allows the U.S. to keep a reduced number of troops in Afghanistan after the war ends for the continued training of Afghan forces and targeted operations against al-Qaida. The White House, later, also released the full text of the agreement.

According Voice of America, senior U.S. officials say the pact is part of a larger strategy to stabilize Afghanistan and defeat extremist forces in the region. They say the plan includes transitioning to an Afghan-led security force expected to peak at 352,000 Afghan troops later this year.

Another key element of the strategy involves Afghan-led reconciliation with the Taliban, which the officials said can move forward if the group breaks its ties with al-Qaida.

Addressing the U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base, Obama warned the soldiers of further hardship ahead in Afghanistan but told them “there is a light on the horizon” after more than a decade of war.

Sources: MGCT, White House, VOA

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