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Relations with US Are Back on Track, Afghan Leaders Tell VOA

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (L) with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (L) with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Voice of America gave millions of Afghans a front row view of their new leaders visiting Washington with exclusive interviews and live coverage of their meetings with President Obama, the Secretaries of State and Defense and a speech to Congress.

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah each gave interviews to VOA emphasizing their desire to strengthen ties between the two countries that became badly frayed in the final months of former President Hamid Karzai’s term.

Within hours of his arrival in Washington Sunday, Ghani told VOA reporter Said Suleiman Ashna that he was determined “to create the type of coordination and cooperation that both ensures Afghanistan’s national interests and secures United States vital interests in the region.”

Ghani also discussed a major goal of his visit: To persuade the United States not to cut U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. After two days of talks with U.S. officials, Ghani achieved that goal. President Obama announced that the nearly 10,000 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan would remain there until the end of the year, despite earlier plans to cut them by half. In addition, the Obama Administration promised to ask Congress to fund Afghan national security forces through 2017.

In a separate interview with VOA on Wednesday, Abdullah Abdullah, Ghani’s partner in the national unity government, stressed his commitment to hold Afghanistan’s government together. “Those who expect the national unity government to collapse,” he said, “will be sorely disappointed.” Abdullah ran for president against Ghani last year.

Amid the interviews, VOA’s Afghanistan Service produced a 90-minute special report around the news conference held by Presidents Obama and Ghani on Tuesday and provided live coverage of Ghani’s historic address to a joint meeting of Congress. Both special reports were carried live by VOA Afghan affiliates RTA, a state broadcaster, and the independent 1TV, which together command a 50 percent TV audience share in Afghanistan. VOA’s Radio Ashna aired daily live specials on the visit throughout the week and also carried live speeches the two Afghan leaders made in Washington and New York. In addition, the service’s Dari and Pashto websites and popular social media pages provided real time coverage of the visit.

Voice of America reaches nearly 40 percent of Afghans weekly in Dari and Pashto, Afghanistan’s two national languages.