Obama, Karzai ink long-awaited strategic deal
KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai and his American counterpart signed the much-awaited strategic partnership agreement between Afghanistan and the United States at the Presidential Palace in Kabul late on Tuesday night.
US Ambassador to Afghanistan Royan Crocker, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander Gen. Johan Allen, National Directorate of Security (NDS) chief Rahmatullah Nabil, National Advisor on Security Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta and other high-level officials from both sides attended the landmark signing ceremony.
Karzai and Barak Obama, who quietly flew into Kabul in the evening, inked the pact at about 12 midnight after addressing a gathering at the heavily-guarded palace.
Karzai welcomed his US counterpart and thanked him for his unannounced visit, saying: “With the signing of the agreement the chapter of the past 10 years will be closed and a new chapter of mutual relations will be opened. Our two independent countries start the relations on the basis of close friendship, mutual respect and commitments.”
Signing two crucial memorandums of understandings between the US and Afghanistan on handing over control of the Bagram jail and night-time raids to Afghans facilitated the conclusion of the strategic agreement, Karzai remarked.
The deal posed no threat to any country in the region, but would spur regional development and help promote peace, he hoped. Afghans had faced several problems over the past three decades and sacrificed much, but peace eluded them, he said, hoping peace and stability would prevail in the country and Afghans would prosper.
He said the coming years are crucial for Afghans and they are committed to complete the security transition before 2014, which would enable foreign troops to withdraw from Afghan soil.
He thanked the US government and people for their assistance to Afghanistan over the past years, and Croker and Allen for diligently preparing the agreement. The signing was a historical achievement for both nations, he said.
Obama said: “The people of the both countries have scarified over the past 10 years. We are not in favour of continuing the war and would end it with our joint efforts.”
Obama visited Afghanistan three times during his presidency and his last trip was in March 2010. He flew to Kabul on the first death anniversary of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on American landmarks in 2001. The Saudi dissident was killed by US Navy SEALs in Pakistan's northwestern city of Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.
Obama would address his nation about Afghanistan at 7:30pm Washington time.
Officials of the two counties have been fine-tuning the agreement over the past 18 months. It was due to be signed eight months ago but was delayed due to differences on certain sensitive issues.
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