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Ghani urges Islamic nations to 'speak truth to terror'

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has addressed the US Congress saying "Islamic State" and its allies pose "a terrible threat" to the countries of western and central Asia. He also thanked the US for its services.

"We owe a profound debt to the 2,315 servicemen and women killed and the more than 20,000 who have been wounded in service to your country and ours," Ghani said in his speech to a joint meeting of the US Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The Afghani leader received a warm welcome from both Republicans and Democrats, with a long applause and several standing ovations.

"The people of Afghanistan recognize the bravery of your soldiers and the tremendous sacrifices that Americans have made to keep our country free," Ghani added.

He also thanked the US for development aid and other civilian assistance, providing "hope" to his nation, not only by combating extremism but in helping more than three million girls enroll in primary schools and raising the average Afghan lifespan from 44 to 60 in the last 13 years.

"I would like to return that gift of re-born hope by offering the American people a partnership with a nation that is committed to the cause of freedom and that will join the fight against the growing threat of terrorism," Ghani said.

The Afghan president told US lawmakers that "Islamic State" militants are already sending advance fighters to southern and western regions of his country "to test for vulnerabilities."

Political leaders in Islamic nations must be more be forceful in denouncing terror movements claiming to represent the Muslim faith, a former World Bank official elected as president in September 2014 said.

"Silence is not acceptable. Islam's leaders must find their voice," Afghani leader stressed.

"We are willing to speak the truth to terror," he said of the Afghan people.

Ghani also said he was "confident" Afghanistan could find a path for member of the Taliban to return to society. However, he made clear that his government would not support militants who "tolerate, finance, provide sanctuary and use violent, non-state actors as instruments of short-sighted policies."

"The Taliban need to choose not to be al Qaeda and be Afghan," Ghani said in a speech to the US Congress.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani secured an agreement from the White House on Tuesday to slow the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, amid concerns that the country could witness a security collapse like that seen in post-occupation Iraq.

US President Barack Obama agreed to keep 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan until the end of the year, providing sustained US support during the spring fighting season. The US troop presence was originally supposed to be reduced to 5,500 by the end of the year.

Unlike former Afghan President Hamid Karzai whose relationship with US officials was fraught with tension and who addressed US Congress in 2014 in resplendent Afghan grab, Ashraf Ghani was wearing a dark Western-style suit.

jil/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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