Afghanistan will sign a security agreement that will allow the United States to maintain a force of up to 10,000 American troops in the country after 2014, officials said Monday. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the newly inaugurated president of Afghanistan, is expected to sign the agreement Tuesday, Reuters reports.
John Podesta, a senior adviser to Barack Obama, said Monday that he will sign the security agreement on the U.S. president’s behalf, the Associated Press reports. The deal will allow the contingent of U.S. soldiers to stay in Afghanistan beyond the end of its international combat mission on Dec. 31.
Ghani Ahmadzai was sworn in Monday, replacing former Afghani President Hamid Karzai in the first democratic transfer of power since a U.S.-led coalition overthrew Taliban rule in 2001. In his inaugural address, Ghani Ahmadzai promised to “forge a new chapter in our relations” with foreign nations, including the U.S. “Our government, which started as a failed state 13 years ago, now has a respectful place in the international arena,” he said, according to NBC News.
In his first act as president, Ghani Ahmadzai named Abdullah Abdullah -- his chief rival in the election -- as his new chief executive. Ghani Ahmadzai has vowed to diffuse political tensions and called upon the country’s extremist factions and militants to end their violent acts.
"Today we congratulate President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah on this historic inauguration," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. "I have known both of them for many years, and they are both patriots committed to the success of their country. Never has that been more evident than in the spirit of cooperation and partnership that united them in establishing a government of national unity to fulfill Afghan aspirations for peace, prosperity and stability."
Obama sought in May to keep about 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014, government officials said at the time. Karzai opposed a continued foreign military presence in the country, but administration officials were confident that either Ghani Ahmadzai or Abdullah would sign a security agreement.
The 10,000 troops will be gradually reduced by half in 2015, with the majority of soldiers concentrated in the capital city of Kabul and the U.S. military base at Bagram Air Field. By 2016, officials expect less than 1,000 soldiers to remain in Afghanistan.