President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan,accompanied by his colleague Chief Executive Dr.Abdullah Abdullah,has spent the last three days in the Washington area,solidifying a continued US commitment to his country following the cessation of combat operations by US troops at the end of 2014.Monday,he met with Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter at the presidential retreat,Camp David,in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.On Tuesday,Mr.Ghani met with President Barack Obama,who extended the mission of the 9800 US troops currently serving in Afghanistan through the end of 2015 at Mr.Ghani's request.Wednesday,President Ghani addressed a joint session of Congress and was repeatedly given standing ovations by the American legislators.*
At a joint press conference with Mr.Ghani,President Obama said we agreed to keep in place our close security cooperation.As part of the NATO mission,we will continue to train,advise and assist the Afghan Security Forces,and will continue to conduct targeted counter-terror operations.We will maintain the 9800 troop level through the end of this year.The final drawdown to an embassy-centered presence of 1,000 troops will be decided on later this year.We will continue to support the national unity government of Afghanistan and support the development of the country.*
For his part,President Ghani said your national security team has gone out of its way for the most intensive discussion.The TAA mission is a vital part of our collective interest.We look at partnership with the US as foundational-not just for Afghan security,but for regional security.The departure of 120,000 international troops has not brought about the security gap that was predicted.The extremists do not speak for Islam;we do.We are speaking truth to terror.The threats that exist,the changing ecology of terror,these are destructive,nihilistic movements.Our commitment to peace is clear;we will not have peace with those who use our territory as a launching ground for global terrorism.*
It's been 90 days since two Americans were killed in Afghanistan,President Obama added.Afghans are fighting with courage and tenacity,and it gets better month by month.We want to make sure we do everything we can to make sure the Afghan Security Forces succeed,so we won't have to go back for a terrorism emergency.Our troops are not on the front lines,and force protection is a priority.It is my judgement and General Campbell's that our remaining is well worth it.*
The 2315 Americans who died in Afghanistan must not have died in vain,President Ghani continued.Their exposure,their number of casualties is way down.Afghanistan is the front lines.Because of American engagement in Afghanistan,the US mainland has not been attacked since 9-11.Our expectations for this visit were our cooperation would be enhanced,and a clear vision for our continued cooperation.The 4.1 billion dollar support for Afghanistan is a significant issue.Most importantly is the flexibility that has been shown in our security cooperation.*
We expect to be working with the Afghan government,for the Afghan people,for a long time,President Obama insisted.There's going to be intelligence and counter-terror cooperation,logistical and training support.The good news is,the Afghan Security Forces have stood up.They're better equipped than the Taliban or Haqqani Network.They're proving that,when they fight,they can be successful.*
Speaking before Congress on Wednesday,President Ghani noted that there is a another,darker cloud that is making its way to our country.The promise of the Arab Spring was followed by the Daesh (ISIL) terror.It is critical that the West understand the threat to the countries of Central Asia.Extremism is becoming a self-financing system.Today Afghanistan's people have rejected extremist violence.We are willing to speak truth to terror.That hatred must be challenged from within the religion of Islam.Silence is not acceptable;but silence is not what the world will hear from us.Islam must reengage with the world openly and without paranoid fear of encirclement,Mr.Ghani told the joint session of Congress at the Capitol.