Kabul and Washington on Tuesday signed a long-delayed security pact allowing the presence of a residual American force, numbering around 9,500, in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
Also on Tuesday, a day after it was sworn in, the new government of national unity inked a status of forces agreement (SOFA) with NATO, whose combat mission in the country is scheduled to end this year.
National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar signed the vital security accords with US Ambassador James B. Cunningham and NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative Maurits R. Jochems.
President Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah, the two vice-presidents, cabinet members and jihadi leaders were also present at the signing ceremony.
Speaking on the occasion, President Ahmadzai said Afghanistan would maintain its complete sovereignty under the deal aimed at ensuring the country’s security and warding off threats.
The Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) was in the best interest of peace in Afghanistan, the region and the world at large, he said, insisting the agreement would help strengthen the Afghan security forces.
“Fortunately, Afghanistan remains the centre of international attention even today,” he said, referring to the fight against the common challenge of terrorism and security.
He went on to assuage concerns over the continued American military presence among Afghanistan’s neighbours. “Aimed to ensure our security, this accord poses no threat to anyone.”
He added that his predecessor Hamid Karzai, Afghan Ambassador to the US Eklil Ahmad Hakimi and then security advisor Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta had minutely studied the BSA text to ensure the protection of Afghanistan’s interest.
He thanked members of last year’s consultative loya jirga, chaired by then president Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, for approving the pact, which could be amended by mutual consent.
Ahmadzai assured the nation that nighttime raids and civilian house searches would end, as international troops prepare to draw down.
CEO Abdullah also hailed the agreement signing as giant step toward stability in the country. The well-deliberated deals had been signed after long discussions based on Afghanistan’s security requirements, he remarked.
He believed the step would have positive effects on the overall security environment in Afghanistan and the wider region. The people would soon realise significance of the pacts, he predicted.
For his part, Cunningham pledged full respect for Afghanistan’s sovereignty and said they wanted to train and advise Afghan security forces. It would pave the ground for continued US and international aid, he noted.
The US remained committed to Afghanistan and the BSA signing would facilitate aid delivery and training of Afghan forces, he noted. The loya jirga’s decision had proved that an overwhelming majority of Afghans supported the deal, he said.
The NATO representative voiced pleasure over signing the deal on behalf of the Western military alliance. After the end of 2014, NATO personnel would only advise the Afghan forces on how to combat terrorists, he explained.
He insisted the NATO and American presence would translate in Afghanistan’s long-term stability on the one hand and economic prosperity on the other. SOFA signing was also a demand of the Afghan private sector.