Afghan President Ashraf Ghani capped his successful, inaugural visit to the United States on Wednesday evening by receiving the Atlantic Council’s highest honor, its Distinguished Leadership Award for political leadership, in a special ceremony before NATO’s top leaders and ambassadors from dozens of alliance countries.

He was the first South Asia leader to receive the award, which has been presented previously to President George  H.W. Bush, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,  Prime Minister Tony Blair and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

In presenting the award, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, an honorary director of the Atlantic Council, said: “What President Ghani has done in less than six months is transformative,” remaking relations with longstanding partners, refocusing the international community on the Afghan future, and providing the world community “confidence that Afghanistan’s government is committed to the rule of law and protecting the rights of its people – including Afghan women.” 

Said Frederick Kempe, President and CEO of the  Atlantic Council, “President Ghani has demonstrated unusual courage, integrity and vision throughout his years of service to Afghanistan.  He epitomizes what we endeavor to recognize with this award, both for what he has already achieved and to encourage what he yet envisions for his country against all obstacles.”

Hosted in coordination with NATO Allied Command Transformation, the ceremony wrapped up three days of high level engagement, including sessions at Camp David with many administration leaders, a meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, and a rare speech before a joint session of Congress.

The ceremony is part of the Council’s annual Distinguished Leadership Awards, to be held this year on April 30, which recognizes leaders who represent the pillars of the transatlantic relationship – political, business, military and artistic leadership. For more information on this year’s Awards, please email