In a nationally televised ceremony at the Presidential Palace just one day after President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai took office, Afghanistan signed a major security agreement with the United States. The agreement will allow continued U.S. assistance with security and counterterrorism efforts beyond December 31.
At the end of this year, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan will draw to a close after 13 years, but the newly minted pact between Afghanistan and the United States, known as the bilateral security agreement, or BSA, will allow the U.S. to continue to provide assistance to strengthen the security and stability of Afghanistan, including coordinating counterterrorism efforts.
The BSA provides no combat role for U.S. troops, and President Obama has stated that the U.S. will continue to decrease the number of troops on the ground to 9,800 through the end of 2015. In June 2013, U.S. and NATO transferred security and combat responsibilities to the Afghan armed forces and began the drawdown of troops.
On Tuesday, President Ahmadzai also signed a separate agreement with NATO: the status-of-forces-agreement (SOFA). The SOFA further defines the role of international forces in Afghanistan and emphasizes training and advising of Afghan troops.
The Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) has been leading combat operations in Afghanistan for over a year. Although the ANSF has been praised by international leaders, Afghan troops are still in need of assistance with intelligence-gathering, logistics, and medical support. International assistance is therefore necessary to ensure security in the country.
Women’s rights leaders have long supported continued international support in Afghanistan, including through the BSA. Many feared that without a security agreement, the Taliban would be emboldened in the country and set back important gains made by Afghan women since 2001.
Those fears were addressed at the BSA signing by U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham. “By providing clarity about our security relationship,” he remarked, “the Agreement opens the way for continued efforts to promote development in health, education, communications, women’s issues, justice, and economic growth.”
President Obama also hailed the agreement stating the the United States would work with the new government of Afghanistan “to cement an enduring partnership that strengthens Afghan sovereignty, stability, unity, and prosperity, and that contributes to our shared goal of defeating Al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates.”
The new Afghan president’s comments also signaled his belief that the BSA would strengthen Afghanistan. “This agreement will pave the way for peace, it will not be an obstacle to peace,” said Ahmadzai. The president also stated that the agreement is a sign of respect for Afghan sovereignty, and the democratic vote of the Afghan people.
Media Resources: Embassy of the United States, Kabul, Afghanistan 9/30/14; US State Department 9/30/14; The White House 9/30/14; Voice of America 9/30/14; Feminist Newswire 6/5/14; Foreign Policy 2/3/14