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Sunday 24 September 2017

Obama hails Afghan security pact

US ambassador James Cunningham and Afghan security chief Mohmmad Hanif Atmar exchange documents in Kabul. (AP)
US ambassador James Cunningham and Afghan security chief Mohmmad Hanif Atmar exchange documents in Kabul. (AP)

Barack Obama says the signing of a security agreement between the US and Afghanistan marks a "historic day" in the partnership between the two countries.

The pact, which allows about 10,000 US troops to stay in Afghanistan after the end of this year, was signed after a lengthy political struggle in Afghanistan that delayed its implementation.

The US president said the agreement reflects Washington's commitment to supporting the Afghan government and will allow the US military to continue targeting terrorists and training Afghan security forces.

Mr Obama said he looked forward to working with Afghanistan to cement its "sovereignty, stability, unity and prosperity".

He also thanked American military personnel who have served in Afghanistan for their "extraordinary service".

Newly appointed national security adviser Mohmmad Hanif Atmar signed the document with US ambassador James Cunningham in a ceremony at the presidential palace in the capital Kabul.

President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who was sworn into office a day earlier, told the assembled crowd that the agreement signalled a fundamental shift in the country's relations with the world.

"This agreement is only for Afghan security and stability," he said.

"These agreements are in our national interest. The Bilateral Security Agreement will pave the ground for Afghanistan to take control."

Government chief executive Abdullah Abdullah also welcomed the agreement as beneficial to the country.

"It has been signed after very careful considerations," he said, adding that "the BSA is not a threat to our neighbours. It will help strengthen peace and stability in the region".

Former president Hamid Karzai had refused to sign it despite US threats of a full withdrawal in the absence of legal protections for American forces. US officials have said the delay in the deal does not affect plans for next year.

A second agreement allowing Nato troops to stay in the country was also signed between Afghanistan and Nato during the same ceremony.

Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the agreement, saying it outlined the group's new mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.

"We remain committed to help finance the Afghan security forces through 2017, to help Afghanistan to further strengthen its institutions, and to further develop our political and practical co-operation with Afghanistan through our enduring partnership," he said in a statement.

Press Association

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