Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani acknowledges applause as he makes remarks to a joint meeting of Congress, with Vice President Joe Biden, left, and House Speaker John Boehner looking on. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, March 25 (UPI) -- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, is a speech before the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, expressed gratitude for the United States' involvement in his country.
He specifically mentioned a "profound debt" to the 2,300 Americans who died in the 13-year war, the "bipartisan support" of Congress and "ordinary Americans whose hard-earned taxes have over the years built the partnership that has led to our conversation today."
His comments were enthusiastically applauded numerous times.
"More than 1 million brave Americans have served in Afghanistan. They have come to defend and to know our people. And in return, the people of Afghanistan recognize the bravery of your soldiers and the tremendous sacrifices that Americans have made to keep Afghanistan free."
He also referred to President Barack Obama
as "an admirable and principled partner. His support for Afghanistan has always been conditional on our performance. I like and appreciate his clear and disciplined approach to American engagement."
Noting that in Afghanistan, "no gift can remain unreciprocated," Ghani promised political and economic reforms, a transformation of the country's legal system, protection of "hard-fought gains in education, health, governance, media freedom and women's rights" and a commitment to defeat terrorism.
"Afghanistan will be the graveyard of al-Qaida and their foreign terrorist associates," he said.
He also reflected on his days as a student at Columbia University in New York, and how he witnessed the fall of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, from the World Bank's New York headquarters. It was "was not a distant image that I watched on the emotionless screen of television. It was horrific, and it was personal."
"I was another beneficiary of America's wonderful generosity that has built so many longstanding friendships through its unparalleled universities," he added. "I ate corned beef at Katz's, New York's greatest, greasiest, pickle-lined melting pot."
The speech was the final activity of Ghani's three-day trip to Washington with Afghanistan's Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah; the two share power after a contentious presidential election. The United States ended its Afghanistan combat mission in 2014, with plans to withdraw all troops by 2016, and there are concerns internal Afghan military and police forces will be unable to contain extremist and radical groups.