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Biden Meets Karzai, Visits Troops in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2011 – Vice President Joe Biden today spoke with Afghan national and local leaders as he continued what White House officials described as a visit to assess progress and reinforce the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, left, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus receive a briefing from Afghan army Brig. Gen. Amlaqullah Patyani, commander of the Kabul Military Training Center, in Afghanistan, Jan. 11, 2011. At any given time, more than 11,000 recruits at the center are preparing to serve in the Afghan national army. Petraeus is the commander of the International Security Assistance Force. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Brian Brannon
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Biden arrived in Afghanistan yesterday on an unannounced visit. Today, he met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and toured a military training site near Kabul with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, senior commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Speaking to the press after lunching together and before a longer one-on-one meeting, Biden and Karzai both said the visit had given them an opportunity for “good conversation.”

After the meeting, Biden echoed the administration’s recent Afghanistan review, saying “we have arrested Taliban momentum here in some very important areas, but these gains … we know are fragile and reversible."

Sustaining those gains will require strong Afghan security forces eventually taking the lead and for Pakistan to make more of an effort to root out terrorist enclaves along the border, the vice president said.

“We must work with our Afghan partners to improve the provision of basic services, to promote transparency and accountability, to strengthen the institutions, and advance the efforts of reconciliation with the Taliban of which we spoke for some time; the Taliban who’ve rejected al-Qaida and renounce violence and are prepared to embrace the Afghan constitution,” Biden said.

"There are many hard days that lie ahead," he added.

The administration's plan to begin drawing down U.S. troops in July 2011 and the U.S.-Afghanistan-NATO agreement for Afghan forces to assume the security lead in 2014 offer a "viable path going forward," Biden said.

As U.S. and coalition forces move into the security transition phase, Biden said, "It is not our intention to govern or to nation-build. As President Karzai often points out, this is the responsibility of the Afghan people and they are fully capable of it."

The United States will continue to assist the Afghan government at its request, he said.

Biden paid tribute to Karzai's leadership and "the extraordinary personal courage" he showed in leading the country in 2002.

“We have moved into a new phase … in Afghanistan,” Biden said. “A transition to a full Afghan lead that begins this year and will conclude in 2014 as we prepare a framework for our future bilateral relations.

“This is President Obama’s vision for the future,” he added. “It’s a vision expressed by our allies at the Lisbon Conference. And I believe, based on our conversation today, it clearly reflects the vision of President Karzai.”

Earlier in the day, the vice president visited the Kabul Military Training Center, where U.S. and coalition troops train Afghan soldiers in a variety of basic and officer training.

In the afternoon, Biden traveled to Forward Operating Base Airborne in Wardak province, described in pool reports as “a sprawling fortress, surrounded by snow-capped mountains.”

Accompanied by Petraeus, Biden met with Wardak officials and coalition forces to discuss the success of coalition and Afghan operations to eliminate the insurgent threat in the region.

Biden spoke to Wardak governor Halim Fidai as the meeting began.

"Governor, how are you?" Biden said, shaking hands. "I've heard really good things about you.”

After the meeting, the vice president shook hands with several service members working at the forward operating base and handed out some vice presidential coins. He asked each troop where he or she was from and thanked them for their service.

Biden then flew by helicopter to Bagram Air Base.

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