Thu, Oct

Red-carpet welcome awaits Ghani, Abdullah in US


president-ghani-on-tripA red-carpet welcome awaits President Ashraf Ghani and his Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Abdullah Abdullah in the United States on Sunday, an official said on Saturday.

President Barack Obama will host the Afghan leaders for lunch at the White House on Tuesday, where they will spend several hours together, including discussions at the Oval Office and addressing a joint news conference.

“The two presidents will discuss a range of issues including security, economic development, and US support for the Afghan-led reconciliation process,” the White House said.

It will be the first meeting between the two presidents at the White House following the 2014 presidential election, which led to the first-ever peaceful democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history.

Ghani, however, would begin his official meetings at the Pentagon on Monday morning, where he would be received by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. Ghani and Carter would deliver remarks at a thanking service for the veterans who served in Afghanistan.

From Pentagon, Ghani will travel to the picturesque presidential retreat of Camp David for talks with Secretary of State John Kerry and other top US officials.

A joint press conference is scheduled at Camp David, where the delegations are expected to discuss bilateral and regional issues, including the pace of the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan.

The Camp David talks would set the tone for the next day’s Obama-Ghani meeting. Before heading to the White House, Ghani will drive down to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers for a wreath-laying ceremony.

On Wednesday, the last day of his Washington trip, the Afghan president will address a joint session of Congress. This is a rare invitation extended to a foreign leader. Both Ghani and Abdullah will also address Washington’s think-tank community and meet the Afghan diaspora.

The White House said Obama was looking to see the change of pace of drawdown of troops between now and the end of 2016.

"I think this is something that would be new -- the sequencing of base closures between now and then. Obviously those two things are related, as that will allow us to responsibly draw down the number of troops.

"You obviously need the minimum troop level to keep open some bases,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference.

No longer responsible for the security situation in Afghanistan, the United States remained interested in making sure that it had a troop presence to protect the forces on the ground, he added.

“We want to make sure that we can continue to have some counterterrorism capability in Afghanistan because there are still extremist elements operating there.

"We want to continue to have the robust training, and advising, and equipping the operation that is ongoing for Afghan security forces,” he said.