Hours after President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed the strategic partnership agreement that will serve as the framework for future relations between their two nations, the Taliban issued its response.
Taliban attackers Wednesday targeted a heavily fortified, private compound in eastern Afghanistan that is mostly occupied by international workers with a car bomb about two hours after Obama delivered a speech at Bagram Air Base about the pact. Three bystanders were killed besides the four terrorists.
“With this attack, we want to send a message to Obama that the Afghans will welcome you with attacks. You don’t need to sign agreements, you need to focus on how to get out of this country,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman.
Obama had made a surprise overnight trip to Afghanistan to sign the agreement and make an appearance with Karzai. The deal does not commit the United States to any specific troop presence or spending levels. It does allow the U.S. to potentially keep troops in Afghanistan through 2024 for two purposes: continued training of Afghan forces and targeted operations against al-Qaeda.
The United States promised to seek money from Congress every year to support Afghanistan, according to the deal.
The agreement comes as a welcome development to Afghans, said some members of parliament, as it secures much-needed international support for Afghanistan past the 2014 deadline for Afghans to take over security of their country.
Because a full copy of the agreement was not made public until after its signing, concerns remain about specifics that have yet to be agreed upon.
“The agreement gives independence and sovereignty to Afghanistan — not completely, but it gives some sovereignty,” said Mahmoud Khan, a member of parliament from Kandahar.
The strategic agreement secures relations between the two nations until 2024, guaranteeing Afghanistan’s status as a “major non-NATO ally.” Previously, the United States and Afghanistan had reached two other agreements: one giving Afghan security forces authority over controversial night raids and the other outlining the handover of American-run prisons to Afghan authorities.
The document guarantees America’s commitment to Afghanistan after 2014, without detailing specifics. Issues such as how long U.S. forces and their bases can remain in Afghanistan after 2014 and the nature of their presence here would be determined in a separate bilateral security agreement.
Muhammad Hassan Haqyar, an independent political analyst in Kabul, says he worries that Afghanistan lost much of its bargaining strength because it can no longer threaten to hold out on signing the partnership agreement as leverage.
“Before, the Afghans could bargain and ask for something, but now they can only request things. Now they cannot make conditions,” he said.
The agreement calls for continued talks with the Taliban, provided the militant group accepts the Afghan constitution.
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