NATO welcomes security pact with Afghanistan

The new Afghan government concluded crucial security pacts with the US and NATO today, paving the way for roughly 12,000 foreign troops to remain in the country in 2015. In a statement outgoing NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the signature of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the United States and Afghanistan and of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between NATO and Afghanistan.
 
The long-delayed agreements were signed a day after President Ashraf Ghani took office. Hanif Atmar, a former Afghan interior minister who is now President Ghani's national security advisor and US Ambassador James Cunningham signed the security pact in a televised ceremony at the presidential palace.
 
"The signing sends the message that President Ghani fulfils his commitments. He promised it would be signed the day after inauguration," said Daoud Sultanzoy, one of Ghani's senior aides.
 
"It shows the president's commitment to the Afghan security forces and confidence in our future relationship with the US. We are replacing uncertainty with certainty."
 
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the agreement would "enable Afghanistan, the United States and the international community to maintain the partnership we've established to ensure Afghanistan maintains and extends the gains of the past decade."
 
According to Sudarsan Raghavan in the Washington Post, the 9,800 US troops that stay in Afghanistan will be there to "help train, equip, and advise Afghan military and police forces" He also noted that, under the BSA: "American forces would keep some bases in the country. It also prevents US soldiers and military personnel from being prosecuted under Afghan laws for any crimes they may commit; instead the United States has jurisdiction over any criminal proceedings or disciplinary action inside the country. US contractors and their employees do not fall into this category and would be subject to Afghan laws."

The SOFA with NATO is expected to allow between 3,000 and 4,000 troops -- mostly from the UK, Germany, Italy, and Turkey -- to also stay in Afghanistan after 2014. The NATO Secretary General said, "The signing of today’s agreements means that this new NATO-led mission, called Resolute Support, can start on 1 January 2015, as planned".