Biden Meets Karzai, Visits Troops in Afghanistan

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.

Kabul Military Training Center, in Afghanistan
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 to enlarge

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.

“There are many hard days that lie ahead,” he said.

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.

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.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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