President Obama will host Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Washington next month, the White House said on Friday, as U.S. officials consider making changes to the administration plan for ending the military mission in Afghanistan.
Ashraf Ghani, making his first visit to the United States as Afghan leader, will be joined by Abdullah Abdullah, his former rival who is now the government’s chief executive officer. During the March 22-25 visit, Ghani and other Afghan officials will take part in a “strategic dialogue” with U.S. officials, hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry at Camp David, the presidential retreat, the White House said in a statement.
At the core of discussions during Ghani’s visit will be the future U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, which is due to end by Dec. 31, 2016, as part of Obama’s plan for ending the long war in Afghanistan. But Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and other officials have said they are now considering a military proposal to slow the troop reduction, and retain some extra troops in order to better support Afghan forces.
Ghani has asked the United States to reconsider its exit plans as his own troops face off against the Taliban, which the top U.S. military official on Thursday called an “increasingly aggressive” militant organization.
The U.S.-educated Ghani, who took office this fall after a lengthy electoral dispute, already appears to have established a solid relationship with Obama. That is in sharp contrast to the strained U.S. ties with former Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, a frequent critic of U.S. and NATO actions in Afghanistan.
While in Washington, Ghani is also expected to address a joint session of Congress. On Friday, House Speaker John Boehner said he had invited Ghani to appear before lawmakers. He would be only the second Afghan leader to do so.
Bernadette Meehan, a White House spokeswoman, said that Boehner and the Afghan government consulted with the White House before arranging Ghani’s congressional appearance, in contrast to the controversy surrounding next week’s address to Congress by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.