(KABUL, Afghanistan) — In the atrium of the King’s Residence in the Afghan Presidential Palace, Presidents Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement that charts a course for the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship beyond 2014, when the final American combat troops will withdraw.
After Karzai thanked the American people for helping the people of his country, President Obama said he had “come to Afghanistan to mark this historic moment for our two nations.”
“Neither Afghans nor Americans asked for this war,” President Obama said, noting that “for a decade we have stood together. We look forward to a future of peace.”
“We have made progress,” he continued, “now we will be long-term partners in combating terrorism and training Afghan Security partners.”
The arrangement, inked ahead of a NATO summit on Afghanistan in Chicago later this month, is designed to send a strong message to the region that the U.S. is not abandoning the country even as it sharply reduces its footprint there.
President Obama cautioned that “there will be difficult days ahead.”
As the Afghan people take control of their own future, he continued, “I am confident the Afghan people will understand that the U.S. will stand by them. We will achieve our goal of destroying al Qaeda…and we have the capacity to wind down this war and have peace.”
As the Afghan military takes the lead in domestic security operations, U.S. intelligence resources, military aircraft and counterterrorism tools will continue to provide support, officials said.
The arrangement is a nod to lessons learned from 1989 when the U.S. last withdrew from Afghanistan, leading to civil war, the rise of the Taliban and creation of a safe haven from which Osama bin Laden could launch his attacks.
Obama will address the nation live from Bagram Air Base Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET to explain how and why the agreement will ensure U.S. military and financial support for Afghanistan for years to come, officials said.
Obama is expected to reference bin Laden and the successful Navy SEALs raid that killed him in his televised address, officials said. He will also meet with U.S. troops stationed at Bagram.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN