Asia

Afghanistan conflict: MPs approve security pact

US marines in Kandahar, October 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption US and other international troops have been handing over to their Afghan counterparts

The lower house of the Afghan parliament has overwhelmingly approved a security agreement allowing US and Nato troops to remain in the country.

The deals provide legal protection for troops serving under a new Nato mission due to begin after combat operations formally end on 31 December.

The agreements still need to be ratified by the Afghan upper house.

Sunday's approval comes a day after US officials said their troops would still be able to target the Taliban in 2015.

The lower house approved the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) by 152 votes to five.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had signed the agreements with the US and Nato in September, after his predecessor Hamid Karzai refused.

Parliamentary approval is an important step forward, the BBC's Richard Galpin reports from Kabul.

Nato has been steadily withdrawing troops, from a level of about 50,000 in early 2014 - mostly from the US.

The total number of troops in the new Nato-led mission will be about 12,000.

There will also be a separate US-led force dealing with the remnants of al-Qaeda.

The new Nato mission has been defined as training, advising and assisting the Afghan security forces.

It emerged on Saturday, however, that President Barack Obama has approved guidelines to allow US troops to fight the Taliban and provide air support for Afghan missions.

There was reportedly no mention of the new guidelines as the lower house approved the security deals.

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