The newly-elected president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, told U.S. soldiers on Monday that he was grateful for their help in helping to secure the promise of a better future for his country.
Ghani, who traveled to the Pentagon to speak to the U.S. troops and top military officials, said Afghanistan will not be a “burden to the United States. Since 2001, the U.S. has deployed over 850,000 soldiers to Afghanistan,” AFP reports.
“Thank you on behalf of a grateful nation to people in this building and the larger US community for sacrificing continuously since September 11 to bring us freedom and hope,” said the Afghan president.
In thanking the U.S., Ghani offered the antithesis to former president Hamid Karzai, who announced in September that Afghanistan did not “have peace because the Americans don’t want peace.” During his tenure, Karzai maintained a partnership with Iran, which had been arming and funding the Taliban in order to attack Americans stationed in the country.
“We do not now ask what the United States can do for us,” said Ghani, in flipping the “ask not what your country can do for you” phrase spoken by former president John F. Kennedy.
The Afghan president added, “We want to say what Afghanistan will do for itself and for the world. And that means we are going to put our house in order.”
He thanked “the American taxpayer” for helping to provide funding for Afghanistan’s development, and pledged “to account for every single one of those dollars and pennies.”
President Ghani will meet with President Obama in the White House on Tuesday, where he is expected to push for a longer American presence in his country, the New York Times reports.
At least half of the 10,000 troops currently stationed in Afghanistan are scheduled to leave the country in the coming months. President Obama has stated that only about 1,000 troops will remain in the country when he leaves office.
“The question is how much flexibility is there in the drawdown between where we stand today and that end point in early 2017,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday.
“President Ghani has indicated a desire to bring that up and discuss that personally with the president,” added Earnest.