U.S. & Afghanistan sign 10-year Strategic Partnership Agreement

Signaling the end of the decade-long war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama and President Hamid Karzai signed a historic 10-year agreement to recalibrate the relationship between the United States and Afghanistan after the security transition completes in 2014.

SOURCE: White House / Pete Souza

“Neither Americans nor the Afghan people asked for this war. Yet, for a decade, we’ve stood together to drive Al Qaeda from its camps, to battle an insurgency, and to give the people of Afghanistan the possibility to live in peace and in dignity. The wages of war have been great for both our nations,” said Obama. “Together, we’re now committed to replacing war with peace and pursuing a more hopeful future as equal partners.”

The Strategic Partnership Agreement, finalized a year after the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, tries to balance the United State’s long-term security goals to deny Al Qaeda and affiliate terrorist organizations a safe haven while respecting Afghanistan’s sovereignty to govern the country without external interference.

“This is a very important year in our life of our country and the people of Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan want the transition of Afghanistan before 2014, end of 2014, with all the responsibility,” said Karzai. “This is the responsibility of government of Afghanistan to fulfill the wishes of the people of Afghanistan to a better life, better future, and peace and prosperity and changing to reality for them.”

Although U.S. and NATO troops are expected to completely withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, some U.S. forces will remain to train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces on counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. The actual scale and scope of U.S. military presence post-2014 will be negotiated in a separate Bilateral Security Agreement, which is expected to be finalized within a year.

Read more: U.S. transfers control of special ops to Afghan forces

“In pursuit of a durable peace, America has no designs beyond an end to Al Qaeda safe havens and respect for Afghan sovereignty,” assured Obama.

In keeping with that pledge, the U.S. has agreed to not build permanent military bases in Afghanistan and not to use the country as a launching point for attack against other neighboring countries. The U.S. has also committed to funding the Afghan National Security Forces and post-war reconstruction and development efforts beyond 2014. NATO states are expected to discuss their future involvements in Afghanistan at the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.

While both Obama and Karzai praised the recent security improvements in Afghanistan, their message was undermined by the ongoing violence, including suicide attacks that killed at least 6 people in Kabul just hours after Obama’s departure from the Afghan capital.

Overview of the 2014-2024 Strategic Partnership Agreement: 

The United States has agreed to:

  • Not build permanent military bases in Afghanistan;
  • Not use Afghanistan as a launching point for attacks against other countries;
  • Continue funding Afghan National Security Forces so that Afghanistan can “independently secure and defend itself against internal and external threats and help ensure that terrorists will never again encroach on Afghanistan soil” and launch attacks against the United States and its allies;
  • Support Afghanistan’s efforts to combat terrorism, narcotics trafficking, organized crime, and money laundering;
  • And assist Afghanistan’s economic recovery by funding transportation, agriculture, water, and energy infrastructure and education programs.

The government of Afghanistan has agreed to:

  • Improve responsiveness, transparency, and accountability of its governance to “better meet the civil and economic needs of the Afghan people”;
  • Improve the electoral process to ensure free and fair elections;
  • Protect human and political rights and “advance the essential role of women in society, so they may fully enjoy their economic, social, political, civil, and cultural rights”;
  • Provide the U.S. with access to Afghan facilities through 2014 and beyond (pending the Bilateral Security Agreement) to further counter-terrorism and mutual security goals;
  • Negotiate peace and reconciliations with insurgents who pledge to “break ties with Al Qaeda; renounce violence; and abide by the Afghan Constitution, including its protections for all Afghan women and men”;
  • And improve intelligence sharing with the United States to combat terrorism, narcotics trafficking, organized crime, and money laundering.


The United States invaded Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 attacks to capture Bin Laden and to dismantle the Al Qaeda terrorist network backed by the Taliban government. However, Bin Laden, Al Qaeda operatives, and many Taliban fighters were able to escape to Pakistan, where they launched attacks against U.S. forces and Afghan civilians.

The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq took away a lot of troops and resources away from the military operations in Afghanistan, and the Taliban was able to regain their footing and escalate their attacks. By 2009 the situation in Afghanistan had deteriorated so much that Obama ordered a surge of 30,000 troops to combat the Taliban insurgency. The troop surge did dramatically improve the security situation in Afghanistan, which allowed U.S. and NATO forces to focus on recruiting and training the Afghan National Security Force to assume security responsibilities after the 2014 troop withdrawal.

But despite the progress made in 2010 and 2011, several high-profile incidents this year – including the burning of the Koran and religious texts at Bagram Airbase, the Kandahar shooting spree that killed 17 Afghan civilians, and videos of U.S. service members posing with enemy corpses – severely damaged the relationship between United States and Afghanistan and resulted in retaliatory fratricides against U.S. and NATO troops.

Read more: Obama: Shooting spree won’t hasten U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

Obama and top Pentagon officials maintained that the U.S. troop withdrawal would proceed as scheduled despite the setbacks. About 10,000 U.S. troops were pulled out of Afghanistan last year; another 23,000 will return to the U.S. this summer, and the steady troop reduction will continue through 2014.

“I recognize that many Americans are tired of war,” said Obama. “[But] we must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize. Otherwise our gains could be lost and Al Qaeda could establish itself once more.”

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