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U.S., Afghanistan Due To Sign Security Pact


Newly-sworn in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (R) embraces to Abdullah Abdullah, Afghan new Chief Executive, during the swearing in ceremony for the country's new president at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, September 29, 2014.

The United States and Afghanistan are expected to sign a long-delayed security deal on September 30.

The bilateral security agreement, or BSA, will allow nearly 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after the international combat mission ends on December 31.

A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani confirmed on September 29 the deal would be signed, reversing the stance of his predecessor Hamid Karzai.

State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said Ambassador James Cunningham will sign the agreement on behalf of Washington, a day after attending Ghani's inauguration in Kabul.

In a statement emailed to the media on September 30, the Taliban described the pact as a plot by the United States to control Afghanistan.

"With their bulk of artifices and deceptions they want to hoodwink the people. They think that the Afghan people do not know about their conspiracies and their sinister goals," Reuters news agency quoted the statement as saying.

Kabul is also expected to sign a similar agreement this week with NATO that would spell out terms to allow 4,000 to 5,000 additional troops -- mostly from Britain, Germany, Italy, and Turkey -- to stay in Afghanistan in a noncombat role after 2014.

The United States had threatened to pull out all its forces if the BSA were not signed.

On September 29, U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman, Representative Howard McKeon, a Republican from California, said that he hoped Obama will view the signing of the BSA as a "roadmap for a robust continued engagement, and not a path to a premature withdrawal."

Analysts say relations between Washington and Kabul should improve under Ghani, a 65-year-old technocrat who worked at the World Bank.

In his inaugural speech, Ghani said his priority is to bring peace to the country.

"We ask opponents of the government, specially the Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami (another militant group), to enter political talks," Ghani said after being sworn in.

"Any problems that they have, they should tell us, we will find a solution" he added.

Ghani's first act in office was to swear in his defeated rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who became the country's first chief executive.

Creating the post was part of a power-sharing deal worked out between Abdullah and Ghani, ending months of uncertainty in Afghanistan following a disputed runoff vote.

Ghani was officially declared the winner of the presidential election on September 21, some three months after the second round of the election was conducted.

With reporting by AFP and AP

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