The Afghan president, , has promised US lawmakers his country will be able to pay for its own security forces within a decade, during a trip to Washington designed to shore up American financial and military support.
“We don’t want your charity,” Ghani told a joint session of Congress the day after the White House in Afghanistan this year to assist with continued attacks from Taliban insurgents.
“We have no more interest in perpetuating a childish dependence than you have in being saddled with a poor family member who lacks the energy and drive to get out and find a job,” added Ghani. “We are not going to be the lazy uncle Joe.”
But the scale of the financial challenge was underlined in comments made before he left for Washington, in which he acknowledged his government is currently able to pay only $750,000 of the more than $4bn needed every year to sustain the Afghan security force. A decrease in foreign funding after 2016 could force to shrink its armed forces.
In the event of a withdrawal of military aid, Afghanistan’s security forces have planned on slashing its personnel by a third to about 230,000. However, with a rekindled insurgency in several provinces around the country, Afghan leaders fear they might not yet be ready for that scenario.
Last year saw the highest number of casualties among Afghan forces since the beginning of the war, bringing the total number of military casualties past 10,000. In comparison, the US has lost about 2,350 troops since the beginning of the war in 2001. Last year, army lieutenant general Joseph Anderson,the second-in-charge coalition commander
Ahead of his trip to the US, Ghani suggested to western officials that he wanted the US to maintain 10,000 troops in Afghanistan for the next decade, .
But scepticism is growing in Washington due to continued corruption reports by US auditors, whose that “coordination of assistance to Afghanistan remains an elusive goal”.
Ghani spoke frankly about the problem on Wednesday, but offered little new detail on how it would be tackled.
“Nearly 40 years of conflict has produced a country where corruption permeates our government,” he told Congress in a speech lasting over an hour. “Until we root out this cancer, our government will never win the trust of our people or your taxpayers.”
The Afghan president, who worked in the US for the World Bank and knows the country well, spent much of his speech paying tribute to American taxpayers, soldiers and politicians, who he thanked more than a dozen times.
“We owe a profound debt to the 2,350 servicemen and women killed and the more than 20,000 who have been wounded in service to your country and ours,” he said.
He also addressed US concerns about women’s rights, which have grown again recently in the wake of the death of a woman who was beaten by a mob after being falsely accused of burning a Qur’an.
But Ghani’s speech seemed principally aimed at urging patience among American lawmakers and reminding them that internal security threats were also threats against US national security.
“Although we may be poor, we are very proud. Our goal of self-reliance is no pipe-dream told to pacify partners who are tired of hearing the promises that we later fail to keep,” he said.
“Ending corruption and impunity are the precursors of self-reliance, but the true test will be whether we can restore the fiscal basis of public expenditure.”
“We are determined to create the wealth that would not make us dependent,” added Ghani. “During this decade, we can assure you that we will be able to pay both for our security and delivery of our [public] services.”