Afghan President Ashraf Ghani came to Washington this week to ask President Obama to slow the pace of withdrawal of U.S. troops in his country. Now, with Obama on board, Ghani delivered a long thank-you note to Congress—and a promise to not "saddle" the U.S. with Afghanistan's baggage.
"The people of Afghanistan recognize the bravery of your soldiers and the tremendous sacrifices that Americans have made to keep Afghanistan free," Ghani told a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. "We owe a profound debt to the 2,350 service men and women killed and the more than 20,000 who have been wounded in service to your country and ours. We owe a profound debt to the soldiers who've lost limbs, to the brave veterans, and to the families who tragically lost their loved ones to the enemy's cowardly acts of terror."
Ghani thanked the U.S. profusely in his remarks. The grateful tone stands in stark contrast to comments by his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, with whom the Obama administration had a turbulent relationship. About this time last year, Karzai and Obama were not on speaking terms, and the former Afghan president was saying that he "saw no good" in the U.S. presence in his country.
Ghani, in his speech Wednesday—after running through a list of thank-yous to senators, ambassadors, military generals and "the American taxpayer"—turned to the state of Afghanistan. The country's story, he said, is about "how a poor country that relied on foreign help became a self-reliant nation where free trade and the rule of law create jobs and prosperity for its people. It is also a story about how a country that has been ravaged became a platform for peace and regional stability and prosperity."