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March 25, 2015

Newly elected Afghan president visits U.S. to rebuild relations

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s first official visit to the U.S. underscored a changing relationship between the two countries and an increased focus on security.

President Barack Obama recently committed 9,800 troops to remain in Afghanistan through the end of this year. Those troops stayed in Afghanistan after the U.S. combat mission in the country ended last year to train and advise Afghan forces.

The Defense Department has committed billions of dollars to support Afghan troops through 2017.

But security remains a major concern, Ghani said in an interview with the NewsHour. In the past year, the Taliban has increased attacks and seized territory from the Afghan military. And with Pakistan working to drive foreign terror groups like the Islamic State from their country, those same groups have pushed toward Afghan territory, putting the country at risk, Ghani said.

Ghani also addressed the recent public killing of a young woman that shocked the world. On March 19, a 27-year-old woman was beaten with rocks and sticks before a crowd after a preacher falsely accused her of burning an Islamic holy book. Her body was set on fire and tossed into a river as the police looked on.

Ghani said that violent incidents are symptomatic of the country’s trauma. “Our society, after 36 years of conflict, is deeply traumatized. We suffer from the post-conflict distress syndrome as a society,” he said.

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai had a chilly relationship with the U.S., but Ghani said his presidency marked a “revitalized partnership” between the two countries. “We have common interests, are facing common threats, and need to engage an enduring partnership. And that is our key goal,” he said.


Warm up questions
  1. Where is Afghanistan? What countries border Afghanistan?
  2. What do you know about Afghanistan and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.?
  3. What is the current role of U.S. troops in Afghanistan?
Critical thinking questions
  1. What are America’s responsibilities to help the Afghan people and government?
  2. How does the location of Afghanistan influence the security threats that the country faces?
  3. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that more Afghans than ever support military operations, now that foreign forces are not acting in a combat role. Why do you think this is the case?
  4. How can Afghanistan begin to recover from what Ghani called the “trauma” of past conflict?
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