US, Kabul sign the long-awaited deal

KABUL: Afghanistan will on Tuesday sign a long-delayed security deal to allow some US troops to stay in the country next year, signalling that newly-inaugurated President Ashraf Ghani intends to repair frayed ties with Washington.

Hamid Karzai, who stepped down as president on Monday, refused to sign the deal in a disagreement that symbolised the breakdown of Afghan-US relations after the optimism of 2001 when the Taliban were ousted from power.

“The BSA (bilateral security agreement) will be signed tomorrow, not by the president but by a senior minister,” Daoud Sultanzoy, a senior aide of Ghani´s, told AFP.

“The signing sends the message that President Ghani fulfils his commitments. He promised it would be signed the day after inauguration, and it will be.

“It shows the president´s commitment to the Afghan security forces and confidence in our future relationship with the US.

We are replacing uncertainty with certainty.”State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that the two countries had agreed to sign the deal on Tuesday.

US Ambassador James Cunningham will be “signing on behalf of the United States,” she said.

“This will enable Afghanistan, the United States and the international community to maintain the partnership we´ve established to ensure Afghanistan maintains and extends the gains of the past decade,” Psaki told reporters.

The BSA will be signed in parallel with a similar agreement between Afghanistan and NATO.

Troops from Germany, Italy and other NATO members will join a force of 9,800 US soldiers, bringing numbers up to about 12,500.

After NATO´s combat mission ends in December, the new mission — named Resolute Support — will focus on training and support for the Afghan army and police as they take on the Taliban insurgents.

Negotiations over the pact saw Karzai at his most unpredictable as he added new demands, shifted positions and infuriated the United States, Afghanistan´s biggest donor.

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