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Nov 23, 2:35 AM EST

Afghan parliament approves US, NATO agreements

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Afghan parliament approves US, NATO agreements

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US troops spending Christmas

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghanistan's parliament has approved a bilateral security agreement between Kabul and Washington allowing international troops to remain in the country past the end of this year.

Parliament also ratified a separate troop agreement with NATO in a special session Sunday.

The international combat mission in Afghanistan, begun after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban government, was to conclude at the end of this year. The new agreements ratified by parliament allow the U.S. and NATO to keep a total of 12,000 troops in Afghanistan next year to support local forces.

The agreements come after administration officials say U.S. President Barack Obama approved new guidelines allowing American troops to engage Taliban fighters, not just al-Qaida terrorists. Obama's decision also means the U.S. can conduct air support when needed.

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