by Staff Writers
Kabul (AFP) April 22, 2012
Afghan and US officials have finalised the initial draft of a strategic partnership agreement that will govern relations between Kabul and Washington after 2014, a presidential statement said Sunday.
"The draft agreement on Afghanistan and US long-term partnership was finalised and initialed on Sunday in Kabul by the heads of the two negotiating delegations in Kabul", a presidential statement said.
"The agreement is now ready for signature by both the Presidents."
No details were released of the content of the draft agreement, which will now be reviewed by the US and Afghan presidents, the US Congress and the Afghan parliament.
The 130,000-strong US-led NATO force helping the Afghan government fight a decade-long Taliban insurgency is due to end combat operations and pull out by the end of 2014 and the two countries are in talks about their future relations.
Kabul has already achieved two preconditions for signing the treaty -- full control over the US-run Bagram prison and controversial special forces night raids against Taliban insurgents.
But the agreement will not cover the crucial issue of the status of US troops remaining in Afghanistan after the withdrawal. The issue will be discussed after the strategic partnership deal is signed, according to the US embassy.
In Iraq, Washington pulled out all its troops, leaving no residual force, after failing to get Baghdad to grant its soldiers immunity from prosecution in local courts.
In Afghanistan, anger over the murderous rampage last month by a US soldier who allegedly killed 17 Afghan villagers in their homes at night before being flown out of the country, has complicated negotiations.
US ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and Afghanistans national security adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta agreed on the wording of the draft, titled "Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between Afghanistan and the United States".
"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", Spanta was quoted as saying the statement.
The US ambassador said in the statement that the agreement will cement a long-term strategic partnership between "two equal and sovereign States".
He said his country was committed through the strategic partnership document to doing its utmost to assist Afghans and to help Afghanistan develop as "a unified, democratic, stable and secure state."
Afghan forces are now in control of night raids and the main US prison is in the middle of a six-month transfer.
Night operations by international special forces against insurgent hideouts had triggered popular anger and were a key factor fraying Washington and Kabul's relationship.
Afghanistan and the US signed a deal on April 8 putting local forces in control of the raids, but with the option of requesting NATO support.
Afghan commandos have been conducting regular night raids since taking responsibility for the controversial operations from their NATO mentors.
Last Sunday, Afghan forces responded to the biggest assault on the capital in 10 years of war, in which squads of militants attacked government offices, embassies and foreign bases.
Officials on both sides have expressed hope that a strategic partnership agreement governing post-2014 ties could be signed ahead of a NATO summit in Chicago in May.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for an "accelerated" transition of security responsibilities from NATO forces on Thursday in the wake of a scandal over US troops abusing Afghan corpses.
Pictures published by the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday showed American soldiers posing with the remains of Taliban insurgents, one of them with a man's hand draped over his shoulder.
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US helicopter crashes in Afghanistan: US official
Washington (AFP) April 19, 2012
A US Black Hawk helicopter crashed in southwestern Afghanistan on Thursday with four people believed to be on board, likely American soldiers, a US defense official told AFP. "We're assuming they're American," said the official, adding he could not confirm whether those on board had been killed or wounded in the incident. The official added that poor weather had likely been a factor, bu ... read more
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