BRUSSELS - The European Union agreed Monday to negotiate a partnership pact with Afghanistan including counter-terrorism, development and fighting drugs, ahead of the departure of NATO combat troops in 2014.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels gave the European Commission and EU chief diplomat Catherine Ashton a mandate to negotiate a "Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development" with the Afghan government.
"There is a need to plan for what happens after transition to Afghan security control in 2014 and the continued involvement and support of the European Union for Afganistan," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
NATO-led combat troops are gradually withdrawing from Afghanistan with the aim of handing Afghan security forces full control of the battle against the Taliban in three years.
"The international engagement in Afghanistan is evolving from its focus on security and stabilization towards political and economic cooperation," EU foreign ministers said in a statement.
The EU and its 27 member states provide around one billion euros a year in assistance to Afghanistan.
The agreement will for the first time form a "a long-term commitment to cooperation with Afghanistan up to and beyond 2014," the ministers said.
"After 2014, a fully sovereign Afghanistan will exercise complete responsibility for its own security and will strive to transform itself into a stable and responsible member of the international community, in the service of all its people and in full respect of agreed international commitments.
"To ensure the successful completion of these processes the international community will need to continue supporting Afghanistan on its path from transition to transformation."
The ministers voiced the EU's commitment to help by encouraging better oversight of elected bodies and the use of public finances, reinforcing the role of parliament and the judiciary and promoting human rights.
They also pledged to step up assistance on governance, the justice sector and electoral reform, and agreed in principle to extend the mandate of the EU police mission in Afghanistan. (AFP)