Obama, Karzai sign partnership agreement in Afghanistan 

 
Spc. Shawnte Rollins, right, a native of Elkhart, Ind., and part of the female engagement team, and the Afghan National Security soldiers collect information from motorists passing through a temporary control point set up at the Chenigai Pass in Bak District. Delaware Company is part of the 1st Battalion, Airborne, 501st Infantry Regiment, Task Force Blue Geronimo. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson)

President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed an agreement that commits the nations to negotiating and building a strategic partnership that will frame their future relationship.

Just after midnight May 2 local time, sitting at a table in front of U.S. and Afghan flags at the presidential palace in the Afghan capital of Kabul, the leaders signed the strategic partnership agreement.

“I’ve come to Afghanistan to mark a historic moment for our two nations and to do so on Afghan soil,” Obama said.

“I’m here to affirm the bonds between our countries, to thank Americans and Afghans who have sacrificed so much over these last 10 years, and to look forward to a future of peace and security and greater prosperity for our nations,” he added.

Neither Americans nor the Afghan people asked for the war, Obama said, yet for a decade both nations have worked to drive al-Qaida from its camps, battle an insurgency, and give the Afghan people a chance to live in dignity and peace.

“The wages of war have been great for both our nations,” Obama said, “but today with the signing of this strategic partnership agreement, we look forward to a future of peace.”

Karzai thanked the people of the United States for the help given his own people over the decade, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan C. Crocker and Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

He also thanked Obama for bringing the partnership agreement to Afghanistan for signing, and the nations who are part of the ISAF coalition.

In the legally binding strategic partnership agreement, according to a White House fact sheet on the document, Obama sought to define with the Afghan government the landscape on the other side of the transition there and the completed drawdown of U.S. forces by the end of 2014.

According to the document, U.S. commitments to support Afghanistan’s social and economic development, security, institutions and regional cooperation are matched by Afghan commitments to strengthen accountability, transparency and oversight, and to protect the human rights of all Afghans – men and women.

The agreement includes mutual commitments in the areas of protecting and promoting shared democratic values, advancing long-term security, reinforcing regional security and cooperation, supporting social and economic development, and strengthening Afghan institutions and governance.

“Together, we’ve made much progress. … With this agreement, the Afghan people and the world should know that Afghanistan has a friend and a partner in the United States,” Obama told Karzai.

Difficult days lie ahead, Obama added, “But as we move forward with our transition, I’m confident that Afghan forces will grow stronger [and] the Afghan people will take control of their future.”

Obama also paid tribute to the Afghans who lost their lives alongside men and women of the United States who sacrificed all for their country.

The United States came to Afghanistan with a clear mission – to destroy al-Qaida, he said.

“We have enormous respect for Afghan sovereignty and the dignity of the Afghan people,” he added. “But together we're now committed to replacing war with peace and pursuing a more hopeful future as equal partners.

“We are committed to seeking a future of justice, peace, security and opportunity. And I am confident that although our challenges are not yet behind us, that the future before us is bright.” (AFPS)