After months of negotiations, the United States and Afghanistan completed drafts of a strategic partnership agreement yesterday that pledges American support for Afghanistan for 10 years after the withdrawal of combat troops at the end of 2014.
By broadly redefining the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States, the deal builds on hard-won new understandings the two countries reached in recent weeks on the thorny issues of detainees and Special Operations raids. It covers social and economic development, institution building, regional cooperation and security.
The talks to reach the agreement were intense. At times they broke down altogether, primarily because of geopolitical frictions in the region from two powerful neighbors, Iran and Pakistan. Each country opposes long-term American ties with Afghanistan.
The American and Afghan negotiators have been working hard in recent days to complete the draft so that it could be signed before a NATO conference in Chicago on May 20.
The agreement — sweeping by design, with few details to bog down negotiators — puts down in writing for the first time the nature of the relationship the United States will have with Afghanistan once the bulk of American troops go home. It is meant to reassure the Afghan people that the United States will not abandon them, to warn the Taliban not to assume that they can wait out the West, and to send a message to Pakistan, which American officials believe has been hedging its bets in the belief that an American departure would leave the Taliban in charge.