America, the secretary of state said, "will continue providing training, advice, and assistance to the Afghan security forces, as well as critical development aid, to support the Afghans as they work to prevent their territory from ever again becoming a haven for al-Qaida and its affiliates."
Kerry echoed the president's determination that "with this announcement, we can ... encourage that positive trajectory" and commended Afghanistan for holding its first round of free elections in April. "The Afghan people have an opportunity now to build on the progress that's been made, to achieve a more secure, more prosperous, and more peaceful future."
Afghanistan's two leading presidential candidates -- who will face off in a second round of voting on June 14 -- have expressed support for signing a bilateral security agreement with the U.S.
Obama's plan to extend the presence of 9,800 U.S. troops beyond 2014 is contingent upon Afghanistan's new leadership signing the BSA.
Kerry acknowledged the collaborative efforts that led up to Obama's announcement on Tuesday, citing "the tremendous performance of our men and women in uniform, as well as the diplomats, civil servants, and local staff who have... worked day-by-day with Afghanistan's own security forces to support them as they take the reins and have contributed to the tremendous gains the Afghan people have made."
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