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Afghanistan Still Relies On U.S., President Ghani Reiterates


When Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani sat down over the weekend and with my colleague Renee Montagne, he said he's heard American soldiers say they left their hearts in Afghanistan while serving there. Ghani says messages like that move him to tears. He has made clear he doesn't want his country to be a burden on the United States. But after 14 years of war, Afghanistan still relies on American support. And Ghani is hoping to convince President Obama not to pull troops out as quickly as planned. The Afghan leader met with top U.S. officials yesterday ahead of a visit to the White House today. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: At the end of a day of intense meetings at Camp David, President Ghani and his chief executives stood alongside the U.S. secretaries of state and defense to thank Americans for the U.S. investment in blood and treasure in Afghanistan.


PRESIDENT ASHRAF GHANI: Tragedy brought us together - the tragedy of 9/11. Now we've created an enduring frame of partnership.

KELEMEN: The U.S. has about 10,000 troops still in Afghanistan, and Ghani has been asking the U.S. to show some flexibility in its pullout plans. He's expecting to hear more about that from President Obama today. But already, Afghanistan got one key sign of support. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says he'll be seeking funding from Congress to beef up Afghanistan's security forces to 352,000 and to sustain them through 2017.


ASH CARTER: That is the force that will be in the lead and responsible for security in Afghanistan, with a trained advise-and-assist role from the United States and its coalition partners and counterterrorism activities.

KELEMEN: Secretary of State John Kerry says the surest way to peace and stability is through reconciliation. He says the U.S. supports President Ghani's efforts to reach out to Pakistan to try to start a peace process with the Taliban. Kerry seems to be trying to strengthen Kabul's hands with the meetings here and pledges of support.


JOHN KERRY: All of these underscore to any Taliban, to anybody who wants to engage in violence, that we are prepared for the long term to support our friends in Afghanistan.

KELEMEN: Kerry announced an $800 million program to promote Afghan reforms and development. That was more welcome news for President Ghani, a former World Bank economist, who says his country, while rich in mineral resources, remains poor.


GHANI: We want to translate that natural wealth into a social wealth.

KELEMEN: Ghani says he has a sense of urgency when it comes to reforming Afghanistan's economy and rooting out corruption. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.