Panetta: Agreement Shows Partnership’s Strength, Resilience
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 1, 2012 The strategic partnership agreement that President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed today demonstrates that the relationship between the United States and Afghanistan is strong and resilient, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said.
The two leaders signed the agreement at the presidential palace in the Afghan capital of Kabul shortly after Obama arrived in Afghanistan for a visit that was unannounced until Air Force One landed at Bagram Airfield.
In a statement issued shortly after the signing ceremony, Panetta expressed his strong support for the agreement, which he said affirms the long-term U.S. commitment to Afghanistan and expresses the shared goal of defeating al-Qaida and its affiliates.
“It is a tangible sign of the strength and the resilience of the partnership that has been built between the United States and the Afghan people, and the significant progress that has been made by American, international and Afghan forces in building an Afghanistan that can secure and govern itself,” he said. “The transition to Afghan security lead has commenced, and it is on track.”
The partnership agreement reflects a common vision for a strong relationship that will continue beyond the end of the transition to Afghan security responsibility in 2014, the secretary said.
“That we can look beyond this period of transition is a tribute to the significant gains our forces have made, and the extraordinary growth in capability of the Afghan national security forces,” he added. “The United States of America and Afghanistan are more secure today because of the service and sacrifices of these brave heroes, and we will be more secure, thanks to the enduring partnership that President Obama and President Karzai have signed. There will be more challenges ahead, but our strategy is succeeding.”
Panetta also extended gratitude to U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan C. Crocker and Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen for their leadership in helping to forge this agreement, “and for their dedicated service to our nation.”