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Obama, Military Hail Signing of U.S.-Afghan Agreement

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2014 — Newly sworn-in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani today signed the bilateral security agreement between his government and the United States, as well as a status of forces agreement with NATO.

The agreements mark an historic day in the U.S.-Afghan partnership that will help advance our shared interests and the long-term security of Afghanistan,” President Barack Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

Ghani was sworn into office yesterday and shares power with Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s chief executive, in the new Afghan Government of National Unity.

The signing of the agreements enables U.S. and NATO forces to continue to assist the development of Afghan security forces past the end of this year.

Agreements enable critical missions

“This agreement represents an invitation from the Afghan government to strengthen the relationship we have built over the past 13 years and provides our military service members the necessary legal framework to carry out two critical missions after 2014: targeting the remnants of Al Qaeda and training, advising, and assisting Afghan National Security Forces,” Obama continued.

“The signing of the BSA also reflects the implementation of the Strategic Partnership Agreement our two governments signed in May 2012,” he said.

Also today, Afghan and NATO officials signed the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, giving forces from allied and partner countries the legal protections necessary to carry out the NATO Resolute Support mission when ISAF comes to an end later this year, the president said in his statement.

Agreements follow historic Afghan election

“These agreements follow an historic Afghan election in which the Afghan people exercised their right to vote and ushered in the first peaceful democratic transfer of power in their nation’s history,” Obama said. “The BSA reflects our continued commitment to support the new Afghan Unity Government, and we look forward to working with this new government 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 president also saluted the “extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform who continue to sacrifice so much in Afghanistan on behalf of our security and the Afghan people. The American people are eternally grateful for their efforts.”

Strengthening Afghan forces

In a statement issued today, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the agreements “an important step forward” for Afghanistan’s new government.

These agreements “will enable American and coalition troops to continue to help strengthen Afghan forces, counter terrorist threats, and advance regional security,” Hagel said in his statement.

“As the Afghan people celebrate their nation's first peaceful and democratic transfer of power, I look forward to working with President Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and other members of Afghanistan's new government,” Hagel added.

The defense secretary saluted Army Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, and U.S., Afghan and partner nation troops.

“I also thank General Campbell, the men and women of ISAF, and their partners in the Afghan National Security Forces as we bring our combat mission to an end and build an enduring strategic partnership with the people of Afghanistan,” Hagel said.

Chairman hails agreements, praises Afghan forces

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also welcomed today’s signing of the bilateral security agreement.

"After 12 years of investment and partnership, today's decision by the Afghan government to approve the Bilateral Security Agreement is a welcome one,” Dempsey said in a statement issued today. “It validates that we have a willing partner as we move forward and provides certainty of our continued presence there in 2015. It also paves the way for a continuing NATO presence.”

Dempsey also praised the Afghan security forces’ “tenacity and unity.”

“Their success, through two elections and protracted political uncertainty -- is enormous,” Dempsey said in his statement. “While they are excellent fighters, their forces are still maturing at the institutional level and our efforts there over the next year will be key to the long-term sustainability of their forces."

Centcom commander congratulates Afghan people

U.S. Central Command commander, Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, congratulated the people of Afghanistan on their “historic, peaceful transfer of power” in a statement released today.

Ghani and Abdullah “are to be commended for their cooperation and shared demonstrated commitment to their country and their fellow citizens,” the general said.

There is still difficult work to be done in Afghanistan, particularly with respect to the formation of the national unity government, Austin noted.

“However, I am hopeful that the leadership will do the right things going forward,” he continued. “And, certainly today's signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement between the governments of the United States and Afghanistan signaled progress. This pact paves the way for further cooperation and close collaboration between our countries.”

The U.S.-Afghanistan partnership “is an important one,” Austin said.

“And as we prepare to transition to a traditional security cooperation mission in the coming years, we remain committed to providing the necessary support to our Afghan partners and, in particular, to their national security forces,” the general said.

“They have come a long way and are doing an outstanding job taking the fight to the enemy and defending their sovereignty. I am confident that all Afghans will continue to do what is required to seize this historic opportunity and to keep their country safe,” Austin said.