U.S. and Afghanistan ink strategic partnership agreement
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REPORTING FROM MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan -- Afghan and U.S. officials said Sunday they had agreed to the broad outlines of an accord governing the long-term American presence in Afghanistan after the Western combat role ends in 2014.
The heads of the two countries’ negotiating teams, Afghanistan’s national security advisor Rangin Spanta and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, initialed a draft of the “strategic partnership agreement” that the two sides have said they plan to finalize prior to a landmark NATO summit in Chicago next month. That gathering is expected to provide a blueprint for the final phase of the decade-long war in Afghanistan.
The strategic partnership pact has been the subject of months of negotiations. Several major points of contention, including night raids by U.S. forces and jurisdiction over detained insurgents, held up the accord for months. The Americans agreed in recent months to give the Afghans greater authority in both areas.
In a possible sign of continuing tensions, however, the two sides characterized Sunday’s development somewhat differently. A statement by President Hamid Karzai’s office said the agreement “is now ready for signature” by Karzai and President Obama. U.S. officials, however, indicated the accord was still being crafted.
“After much hard work together, we are pleased that we are close to completing negotiations on strategic partnership,” said U.S. Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall. He said the Afghan and U.S. governments would now each hold internal consultations on the draft document.
On the American side, that will include congressional consultations and review by the White House and government agencies involved in the accord. On the Afghan side, parliament is to be consulted.
The U.S. Embassy declined to discuss specifics of the accord pending its final wording.