After months of uncertainty following a disputed election to succeed President Hamid Karzai, the newly sworn in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday signed the long-delayed bilateral security agreement with the US as well as a follow on status of forces agreement with NATO. President Barack Obama praised the agreement, which gives both US and NATO forces the necessary legal protections to remain in country in an advise and assist capacity following the end of the International Security Assistance Force mission in December. “The BSA reflects our continued commitment to support the new Afghan unity government, and 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,” said Obama. NATO’s outgoing Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the agreements open “a new chapter for cooperation between NATO, our partners, and the Afghan National Security Forces.” Alliance leaders came together earlier this year in Brussels to outline the plan for a follow on mission, which would involve roughly 10,000 troops from the US and other nations. The new NATO SOFA provides the legal basis for the Alliance’s follow on mission, dubbed Operation Resolute Support. The new mission can now begin on Jan. 1, 2015, as planned. Rasmussen said NATO would remain committed to help finance the Afghan security forces through 2017.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.