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U.S. strategic partnership agreement ratified by Afghan Parliament's lower house

Parliament's lower house on Saturday ratified the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement that was signed in Kabul on May 1 by President Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai.

The agreement, which will govern U.S.-Afghan relations until 2024, will allow some U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after international combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.

There were varied accounts of the voting and no official confirmation of the results, but MPs McClatchy spoke to said there was overwhelming support in the 249 member Wolesi Jirga for ratifying the pact.

Shukria Barakzai, the chairwomen of the Wolesi Jirga’s defence committee, said only six MPs – including members of the Hezb-i-Islami party – voted against. Farhad Azimi, the deputy secretary of the lower house, put the number of “no” votes at five.

Reports suggested that between 183-190 of the 249 MPs were present for the vote.

The agreement now goes to Parliament’s upper house, the Meshrano Jirga, where it is expected to be ratified next week by a strong majority. It would then be signed into law by President Karzai.

Barakzai said she had campaigned for ratification because Afghanistan would face significant challenges after 2014, including security threats from neighbors Pakistan and Iran.

“I want independence for Afghanistan, and that will not be possible without the support and cooperation of the international community.”

She said there was “no doubt” that Iran had worked hard to influence the vote, including offering bribes to some Afghan politicians.

“They tried, they spent money, but it didn’t work,” said Barakzai.

“This is the Afghan parliament, and luckily today the majority of MPs ratified (the agreement) because they believed it will assure Afghanistan is an independent, impartial, self-sufficient, sovereign country in the future.”

The U.S-Afghan strategic partnership agreement has angered Iran, which has long been unhappy with America’s involvement and influence in Afghanistan.

However, Karzai sought Friday to allay those concerns. He said the pact posed no threat to other countries, including Iran, and pointed out that Afghanistan had already signed strategic agreements with Australia, Britain, France, Germany, India and Italy.