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Biden: Afghans May Control Some Provinces as Early as January

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2010 – NATO’s International Security Assistance Force may be able to start transitioning security of some Afghan provinces to Afghan control as early as January, Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday.

“We’re making significant progress against al-Qaida,” Biden said during an interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live” television show last night. “It has been significantly diminished in that so-called al-Qaida Central,” the mountainous region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

“At the same time, we are moving into a new position where we’re not going to need American forces in those 34 provinces protecting the Afghan people,” he said. “They’re going to begin to do that, themselves.”

The Obama administration still plans to begin drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan in July, Biden said.

“And by 2014,” the vice president said, “it’s theirs to take care of themselves in terms of their own security.”

Biden said the United States’ NATO allies “believe we can begin to transition some of those 34 provinces beginning in January.”

NATO officials are slated to discuss the transition of Afghan security to Afghan forces at a summit in Lisbon, Portugal, held today and tomorrow.

Asked by King about the administration’s position on Afghanistan, Biden said, “This is what we inherited and we had to finish it.”

Biden said President Barack Obama had asked him for an independent assessment on the situation in Afghanistan. The administration’s first order of business, the vice president said, was to define why U.S. troops are in Afghanistan and to ensure that “al-Qaida is degraded and ultimately defeated.”

Second, Biden said, “We give the freely elected government an opportunity to be able to protect itself against the Taliban and any other interests that it can’t reconcile with, and we’re going to train up their forces.”

The administration’s deadline to begin a U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan, Biden said, is an important message to the Afghans that they must be ready to take control of their security.

“We are all on the same page now for the first time –- the American military, the American civilians, the administration, the Congress, the NATO, our allies, the Afghans –- that here’s the deal: you’ve got to step up your governance capability,” Biden said. “We cannot want peace and security more than you want it in your villages and in your homes. We’re going to help train you.”


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