KABUL — Afghan and U.S. officials have finalized the initial draft of a strategic partnership agreement that will govern relations between Kabul and Washington after 2014, a presidential statement said April 22.
“The draft agreement on Afghanistan and U.S. long-term partnership was finalized 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 U.S. and Afghan presidents, the U.S. Congress and the Afghan parliament.
The 130,000-strong U.S.-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 U.S.-run Bagram prison and controversial special forces night raids against Taliban insurgents.
But the agreement will not cover the status of U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan after the withdrawal. The issue will be discussed after the strategic partnership deal is signed, according to the U.S. 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, negotiations have been complicated by the deaths of 17 Afghan villagers, for which a U.S. soldier has been charged.
U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Afghanistan’s 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 finalized 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 U.S. ambassador said 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 U.S. prison is in the middle of a six-month transfer.
Afghanistan and the U.S. signed a deal April 8 putting local forces in control of night 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.
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 April 19, in the wake of a scandal over U.S. troops allegedly abusing Afghan corpses.
Pictures published by the Los Angeles Times on April 18 showed American soldiers posing with the remains of Taliban insurgents, one of them with a dead man’s hand draped over a soldier’s shoulder.