KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- A day after Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as Afghanistan's first democratically-elected president, the new government signed a much delayed security agreement with the U.S. and NATO.
Afghanistan's newly-appointed national security adviser, Hanif Atmar, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham signed the Bilateral Security Agreement on Tuesday afternoon at the presidential palace in Kabul.
The agreement establishes a legal framework for the U.S. to train, advise and assist Afghan national security forces, and allows for the U.S. and international partners to provide necessary financial support to the Afghan forces.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced in May that a signed agreement would permit approximately 9,800 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. There are currently around 24,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Pentagon noted.
The signing of the BSA was long delayed due to former Afghan President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign. With an unclear post-2014 plan for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Obama warned Karzai in February that the U.S. would be forced to consider a full military withdrawal by the end of 2014.
Without Karzai's approval, the Obama Administration acknowledged in the intervening months that a continuing U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan was contingent upon Afghanistan's new leadership signing the BSA.
Obama explained Tuesday that the eventual signing of the BSA was the result of "nearly two years of hard work by negotiating teams on both sides."
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul hailed the signing of the BSA as "another important step in solidifying our strong bilateral relationship and an essential component for supporting Afghanistan's long-term security."
The BSA will go into effect on January 1, 2015.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also applauded the signing of the Status of Forces Agreement between NATO and Afghanistan on Tuesday, paving the way for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission to begin on January 1.
"These agreements will enable American and coalition troops to continue to help strengthen Afghan forces, counter terrorist threats, and advance regional security," said U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.