Seeking longer US troop presence, Ghani meets Obama
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): President Ashraf Ghani, accompanied by his Chief Executive Officer Dr Abdullah Abdullah, are holding talks with US President Barack Obama at Oval Office on Tuesday.
Topping the agenda of the talks, scheduled to last several hours, is a change on pace of the drawdown of troops and Afghan-led reconciliation efforts, administration officials said.
At the start of the formal meeting, a small contingent of Afghan and local media representatives was allowed to the Oval Office for less than a minute for a photo opportunity.
Obama, Ghani and Dr Abdullah were seen smiling while shaking hands. “OK guys. We will hold a press conference later,” Obama told the press at his Oval Office. Media members left the room for the leaders to continue their deliberations.
Ghani and Abdullah reached the White House after visiting the Arlington cemetery where they paid tribute to the fallen soldiers. They were accompanied by US Vice President Joe Biden, who hosted a private working dinner for the visiting dignitaries.
Ghani is is expected to urge Obama to keep more US troops in Afghanistan, as the local forces face a tough spring fighting season. “Yes, the pace of withdrawal is a key item on the agenda,” one US official said.
On his first trip to the United States as president, Ghani would plead with Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden to reconsider their plans to withdraw all but about 1,000 troops by the beginning of 2017. The 10,000 troops currently in Afghanistan will be reduced by half in the months ahead.
"There are broad indications that Obama, seeing Ghani as the best hope to end the war, will agree to slow the pace of the troop drawdown," the official said, hinting at a formal announcement in this regard at their joint media availability.
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