U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday voiced hope a long-delayed U.S.-Afghan security deal governing the presence of American troops in the country beyond 2014 may be signed shortly.
The bilateral security deal (BSA) was supposed to have been sealed by late last year, but at the last minute outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to sign, saying he believed it was up to his successor.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said the 32,000 American forces in Afghanistan will be scaled back to 9,800 by early 2015, and a full withdrawal will be completed by the end of 2016, some 15 years after the 2001 US-led invasion.
Kerry, meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Sunday in New York ahead of the annual U.N. General Assembly, congratulated both the new Afghan president elect Ashraf Ghani, and his challenger Abdullah Abdullah.
“They have joined together in a unity government that offers a huge opportunity for progress in Afghanistan, for the signing of the BSA in a week or so, inauguration next week for the new president, and importantly for a real program of unity and reform to be implemented on behalf of the people of Afghanistan,” Kerry said.
He also praised the two men for “their joint acts of statesmanship, for their leadership, for their willingness to put Afghanistan and the interests of the Afghan people ahead of their personal interests and party.”
Fabius also welcomed Sunday’s power-sharing deal, under which Abdullah will become “chief executive officer” (CEO), a role similar to prime minister — setting up a tricky balance of power as Afghanistan enters a new era.
“It’s an extremely positive step,” Fabius said, thanking Kerry for his work in brokering the deal during a trip to Kabul earlier this year.