U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan through 2017

David Jackson and Jim Michaels, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The United States and Afghanistan will sign a long-delayed security agreement Tuesday that will allow about 9,800 American troops to remain in the country past this year, a U.S. official said.

White House senior adviser John Podesta on Monday reported the planned signing after attending the inauguration of President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in Kabul.

U.S. and Afghan officials had agreed on terms of the accord more than a year ago, but former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai had refused to sign. Karzai had complained about U.S. airstrikes that have killed Afghan civilians and U.S. overtures to the Taliban, the Islamists who had ruled Afghanistan until ousted by American forces in 2001. The Taliban have been waging a civil war ever since.

Both Ahmadzai and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, had said they would sign the agreement if elected.

The two formed a power-sharing government, with Abdullah named chief executive, a position with substantial influence within the government.

"We have a perfect opportunity to reset this relationship now that there is more pragmatic leadership," said Marc Chretien, a former top political adviser to the coalition command in Kabul, referring to relations between Afghanistan and the West.

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