Wracked by insecurity and economic woes, many Afghans are turning their back on their country. In Berlin, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tried to talk up his country as one of future opportunities.
Security was high around Berlin's luxury Adlon hotel close to the city's iconic Brandenburg Gate on Thursday afternoon: Several policemen patroled outside the entrance, while inside two security guards led a sniffer dog under the hotel's glittering chandeliers in preparation for Ashraf Ghani's visit.
The Afghan President, a Columbia University graduate and former World Bank employee who returned to Afghanistan in 2001 after 25 years in exile, took power a year ago. Now, he was in Berlin for political talks with the government aimed at stemming the flow of refugees into Europe.
A year into Ghani's presidency, Afghanistan continues to be wracked by a resurgence in Taliban attacks, whom they have been battling for years. A round of peace talks moderated by Pakistan broke down earlier this year due to a change of leadership among the Taliban.
The reported shooting of Taliban leader Mullah Mansoor this week is also likely to hinder efforts to revive the peace talks. The Taliban though, Ghani vowed, "are not about to take power in Afghanistan."
IS-linked groups gaining ground
"We are dealing with fast-replicating movements", Ghani told an audience made up of diplomats and journalists in the Adlon, where he was speaking by invitation of the German Körber-Foundation. Afghanistan's forced "had paid a very high price" in the fight against terrorism, he added.
Coupled with economic uncertainty and wide-spread corruptions, many Afghans are turning their back on the country: More than 140,000 have fled their home, many heading to Europe, and in particular to Germany, where they now make up the biggest group of asylum seekers after Syrians. According to German authorities, some 31,000 Afghans arrived this year through October.
Germany though, has made it clear that they are unwilling to accept all applicants from Afghanistan and that those who are rejected will have to leave, pointing to the existence of what it calls "safe zones", that is parts of the country with lower levels of insecurity.
"We will have to deport people to Afghanistan", German Chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists at a joint press conference with Ghani in Berlin on Tuesday.
Ghani, too, has repeatedly begged his countrymen to stay: "We are a resilient people. For 30,000 that have left there are 30 million who are determined to stay", he said in Berlin.
Country of opportunities
"We are not a country of beggars", Ghani said. Indeed, he tried to paint his country as one of opportunities, pointing to its vast cache of natural resources, including rare minerals and copper, and a potential energy hub across the region.
Afghanistan, he said, "was a work in progress."
So far, he has yet to persuade his country's citizens to remain: According to media reports, they continue to queue up in large number outside Afghanistan's only passport office in Kabul every day, waiting for their turn to a passport and a way out of the country.