WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): Millions of Afghans made their voices heard through free and fair presidential elections on April 5, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday, announcing that America’s longest war was coming to a responsible end.
"These have been encouraging days for Afghanistan's future. We've witnessed a first round of free elections where millions of Afghans made their voices heard, in what promises to be the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan's history," Kerry said.
Both leading candidates Dr. Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani unequivocally supported signing a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US as they looked toward a lasting relationship between the two nations, the secretary added.
"With President Obama's announcement today of what America's presence will look like in Afghanistan after combat operations end in 2014, our nation’s longest war is coming to a responsible end," Kerry said in a statement.
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, he said, adding that Obama has made it clear that as they do, the United States will stand with them.
"The president’s plan for our military footprint in Afghanistan would not have been possible without the decision to surge both troops and diplomacy, and without the tremendous performance of our men and women in uniform, as well as the diplomats, civil servants, and local staff who have also served there proudly," he said.
Kerry said the US would 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 Qaeda and its affiliates.
"Routing out Al Qaeda's core leadership has been our most important mission in Afghanistan, and because of our focused and targeted efforts, we have significantly degraded the terrorist group's capabilities there. But more work remains, and that is why the United States is committed to keeping up the fight against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan," Kerry said.