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Top US, Afghan Diplomats Meet on Security Pact

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KABUL – Senior American and Afghan officials held talks Saturday to try to iron out the details of a key pact signed a year ago that defines the future of the United States’ commitment to Afghanistan.

The Strategic Partnership Agreement outlines a set of principles and general commitments for relations between Washington and Kabul after 2014, when foreign combat troops are to withdraw from Afghanistan. But there is lingering uncertainty over whether either party will be willing or able to stick to the provisions of the pact, which includes several loopholes for both nations.

The meeting Saturday in Kabul between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasoul is the second round of negotiations over how to implement the agreement, which was signed in May 2012 by President Barak Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The deal spells out Washington’s commitment to Afghanistan over the next 10 years as well as its expectations of Kabul, including free and fair presidential elections next year, pledges to fight corruption, improve efficiency and protect human rights, including women’s rights.

Sticking points may include the amount of funds the U.S. provides to Afghan security forces. The two countries are also still squabbling over a separate agreement that would protect from prosecution a residual force of as many as 10,000 U.S. troops who would stay behind after the final withdrawal. In remarks before Saturday’s talks, Burns promised that Washington would stick by Afghanistan and its nascent national security forces after 2014 and the end to the international combat mission. (AP)

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