U.S., Afghanistan finalize pact as forces draw down

U.S., Afghanistan finalize pact as forces draw down
Afghan President Hamid Karzai shakes hand with U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker. (July 2011 file photo)
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghan and U.S. officials finalized a long-awaited strategic partnership deal Sunday that is meant to set forth guidelines for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan as forces draw down, the two governments said.

Afghan and U.S. officials had said that they expected to sign the deal before a NATO summit in May but a series of disagreements had threatened to derail the partnership in recent months. Some of the most contentious issues were removed from the broader pact into separate memorandums of understanding.

"The document finalized today provides a strong foundation for the security of Afghanistan, the region and the world and is a document for the development of the region," Afghan National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta was quoted as saying.

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Spanta initialed the document at a ceremony in the capital, a statement from President Hamid Karzai's office said. U.S. embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall confirmed the same information.

"The agreement is now ready for signature by both the presidents," Karzai's office said.

At the signing, Spanta said the agreement had taken more than a year and a half of work, according to the Afghan statement.