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U.S. and Afghanistan agree on strategic partnership

President Hamid Karzai’s government announced on Sunday that it has finalized an agreement on a long-term Afghan-U.S strategic partnership.

The agreement paves the way for U.S involvement in Afghanistan after the U.S.-led coalition troops withdraw by the end of 2014.

The document was initialed by Afghanistan’s national security adviser, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, and U.S Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the statement from the presidential palace said. Gavin Sundwall, a U.S. Embassy spokesman, said, “We are pleased that we are close to completing negotiations on strategic partnership.”

Spanta in a statement said that the document was the result of more than one and a half years of work. “The document finalized today provides a strong foundation for the security of Afghanistan, the region and the world and is a document for the development of the region,” he said.

President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are expected to sign the partnership agreement before NATO summit next month in Chicago.

Several hurdles had to be overcome to reach the agreement. Two of the major ones were the transfer of responsibility for the Bagram detention facility in north of Kabul and the “Afghanization” of special operations. The Afghan government wanted to settle these issues before signing a long-term strategic partnership.

The Bagram detention facility was transferred to Afghanistan last month, and a special operations agreement by the Afghan forces was signed early this month.

Crocker said the negotiations leading to the agreement had been very difficult. The pact cements a long-term strategic partnership between “two equal and sovereign states,” he said.

The contents of the agreement were not made public. U.S. military bases were not believed to be part of the it.

“Our goal is an enduring partnership with Afghanistan that strengthens Afghan sovereignty, stability and prosperity and that contributes to our shared goal of defeating al Qaida and its extremist affiliates,” Sundwall said.

Gul Ahmad Azami, a senator from western Farah province, said the agreement was in Afghanistan’s favor if the United States keeps all its commitments after signing it. He said the U.S. and its allies had promised the country a strong government based on the rule of law, “but they failed and instead they supported a corrupt government.” If the U.S. government repeats that mistake, the agreement will go nowhere, he said.

(Safi is a McClatchy special correspondent).