KABUL -- Senior Afghan officials have briefed lawmakers about a finalized draft agreement between Kabul and Washington covering the future of U.S. assistance to Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul spoke before the Afghan Senate, while Afghan National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta briefed the lower house of parliament.
Spanta told lawmakers that Washington has pledged to help defend Afghanistan after NATO's forthcoming withdrawal. Spanta said that the United States is ready to come to Afghanistan's aid against its foes but only with Afghan approval.
He quoted from the pact, saying the United States will use "diplomatic means, political means, economic means, and even military means."
Spanta and the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, formally initialed a "final" version of the Strategic Partnership Agreement on April 22.
Although details of the agreement have not been made public, officials say it spells out a framework for future U.S. assistance to Afghanistan for economic development, strengthened security, and improved governance.
The agreement is aimed at easing Afghan fears that the country could be abandoned by the international community as the planned withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan at the end of 2014 approaches.
U.S. and NATO forces moved into Afghanistan more than one decade ago, at the end of 2011, to topple the Taliban regime that was then ruling the country. The invasion was prompted by support the Taliban had given to the Al-Qaeda network, blamed for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States that killed around 3,000 people.
The agreement does not address the numbers or activities of U.S. troops and advisers who could remain in Afghanistan after NATO's planned 2014 withdrawal. The military issue is expected to be covered in a separate Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
U.S. President Barack Obama (right) and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, must also review and officially confirm the document.
U.S. President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai must review and officially confirm the document.
Concluded Before NATO Summit
Speaking to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Gavin Sundwall, a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Kabul, explained the process leading to the final adoption of the agreement.
"Each side -- the Afghan side and the U.S. side -- will now enter into our respective internal consultations processes on the text," he said. "For the United States, that will mean an interagency review, consultation with Congress as appropriate, and final review by the president of the United States."
Afghan Presidential Spokesman Aimal Faizi said the two sides are expected to conclude the final agreement before NATO's summit in Chicago in late May. Faizi says the Afghan leader will begin a series of consultations this week to persuade Afghan leaders to endorse it.
"Afghan President Karzai will have meeting with various political, religious, and jihadi leaders about the strategic agreement this week," Faizi said. "He will brief them on various aspects of the agreement. These will be part of the final internal consultations in both the countries [before concluding the agreement]."
Negotiations on the Status of Forces Agreement have been stalled for months. U.S. negotiators only recently agreed to Afghan demands to hand over prisons operated by the U.S. military to Afghan control. Washington has also agreed to hand over leadership of night raids by military forces on Afghan homes to Afghan forces.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and Pajhwok Afghan News