- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

American and Afghanistan authorities have reached a deal and to allow U.S. troops to remain in the country beyond the end of the year.

A senior Defense Department official said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai had announced his intent to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement a few days ago. The deal lets about 9,800 U.S. troops stay in Afghanistan after 2014.

Mr. Ghani Ahmadzai had also given notice that he was going to sign a separate NATO Status of Forces Agreement to let a small contingent of international troops stay in-country as well.

The agreement on Tuesday was signed by Afghanistan’s newly appointed national security adviser, Hanif Atmar.

President Obama lauded the agreement and said it represents a strengthening of the U.S.-Afghan relationship.

“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,” the president said. “This day was only possible because of the extraordinary service of our men and woman 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.”

The deal calls for a total of 12,500 NATO troops to stay in Afghanistan — most from the United States and the remainder from allied nations, including Germany and Italy. U.S. Ambassador to Kabul Jim Cunningham signed the agreement on behalf of Washington, D.C.

The BSA allows for some “counter-terrorism operations” to go forth in Afghanistan as well.

Ben Wolfgang contributed to this report.

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