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Obama praises signing of Afghan security pact

President Obama hailed the signing of a new security pact Tuesday allowing 12,000 U.S. and NATO troops to remain in Afghanistan after the end of the year, saying it would “strengthen the relationship” between Washington and Kabul.

"Today we mark an historic day in the U.S.-Afghan partnership that will help advance our shared interests and the long-term security of Afghanistan," the president said in a statement.

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The bilateral security agreement and a separate deal with NATO were signed by new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani a day after he took office. 

But the fate of the agreement had been in doubt for months. Outgoing President Hamid Karzai had refused to sign the documents, which permit allied troops to conduct counterterrorism operations and train Afghan security forces. Karzai's actions strained relations with the West.

While both Ghani and his chief rival in the presidential election, Abdullah Abdullah, had said they would sign the documents after taking office, accusations of electoral fraud prevented the naming of a new leader for months. The pair eventually struck a power sharing agreement, with Abdullah serving as a newly created "chief executive officer."

The U.S. and NATO had threatened to withdraw their troops — and billions in aid — if the next president would not sign the agreement establishing their legal authority.

"These agreements follow an historic Afghan election in which the Afghan people exercised their right to vote and ushered in the first peaceful democratic transfer of power in their nation’s history," Obama said. 

"The BSA reflects our continued commitment to support the new Afghan Unity Government,” he added. “We look forward to working with this new government to cement an enduring partnership that strengthens Afghan sovereignty, stability, unity, and prosperity, and that contributes to our shared goal of defeating Al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates."