"I'm here to thank American mothers, the Americans who are sending their young sons and daughters who are helping us win this war" Afghan National Army Brig. Gen. Muhaiuddin Ghori said at news conference at Camp Pendleton on Thursday morning.
Several officers with the Afghan National Army are in the area, meeting with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Forward's (IMEF-Forward) commanding general, Richard Mills, and senior officers on his staff. Mills will lead IMEF-Forward as it takes over Marine operations in southern Afghanistan this spring.
Tours of Marine Corps educational and training facilities are an important part of the visit. Ghori said he wants to instill some of U.S. Marine Corps culture into the ranks of the ANA. He also said that access to education is key to long term success in Afghanistan.
"The first priority is to beat the enemy," Ghori said. "The second priority is to educate our people and provide more educational support to the people of Afghanistan."
Ghori also said that the three things his army needs most are a strong economy, more equipment and more time.
Timing was a central theme throughout the briefing, an indirect reference to Pres. Barack Obama's timetable, which calls for U.S. forces to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan in mid-2010. Critics of the plan are concerned that leaving the country too quickly will derail the progress being in Afghanistan.
Ghori told the media that the ANA is committed to winning and protecting Afghanistan on its own.
"By nature, the Afghani people are warriors," said Sgt. Major Earnest Hoopii, who is a member of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Afghanistan (MEB-A). "They will run to the sound of gunfire. They have fought alongside us, and they have never broken and run. They will fight to the death. They will fight along with Marines."
Ghori said Afghanistan has been at war for 30 years and that he is counting on the compassion and goodwill of the American people to break that cycle, not just for the safety of Afghanistan but for the world.
"The people of the United States should help the people of Afghanistan to defeat the enemy and eliminate terrorism in Afghanistan," Ghori said. "We do not want them to grow their roots again in Afghanistan and Pakistan to become a threat to the world peace."
Members of the visiting delegation in Pendleton will serve as liaisons between Mills and Afghan National Army (ANA) leaders.