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Afghan president warns Congress about threat posed by Islamic State

WASHINGTON — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is warning members of Congress that the Islamic State poses a “terrible threat” to his country and others in its region.

The terror group is sending its members to southern and western Afghanistan to “test for vulnerabilities,” Ghani told a joint meeting of the House and Senate on Tuesday morning.

“Terrorists neither recognize boundaries nor require passports to spread their message of hate and discord,” he said.

His speech came the day after President Barack Obama had announced that the United States will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2015, postponing plans to reduce those troop levels at Ghani’s behest.

“Silence is not what the world will hear from us,” Ghani said. “Afghanistan is joining a new consensus that is emerging in the Muslim world — a consensus that rejects extremism and war.”

Ghani’s comments came during a speech — and in a visit — focused largely on thanking the United States for its decade-long efforts to thwart the Taliban. He’s the head of Afghanistan’s new National Unity government, and said he’s focused on cracking down on corruption.

Ghani said 20 percent of Afghanistan’s cabinet are women — “still too low” — and pledged to increase that figure in the coming years. And he said the country wants to end its reliance on foreign aid, saying it won’t be “the lazy uncle Joe.”

He touted his country as one where “there’s a strong public conscience. People are expected to act for the common good.”

Ghani, who attended Columbia University and lived in New York City, pointed to Western influence in Afghanistan, saying that the country has gone from barring girls from attending school in 2002 to having more than 3 million enrolled today.

“We are starting to balance the focus on security with a new emphasis on the rule of law and justice,” Ghani said.