U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says the United States is prepared to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014, if Afghans wanted it. The international military coalition plans to transfer security control of Afghanistan to local forces.
Vice President Joe Biden says U.S. troops with local security forces are breaking the momentum of the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
The U.S. vice president spoke after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. Biden said the United States has also stepped up its civilian efforts to help achieve the goal of a stable, sovereign Afghanistan that is not a haven for terrorists.
"I think it is fair to say we have largely arrested the Taliban momentum here, in some very important areas, particularly in Helmand and Kandahar," he said. "But these gains as you pointed out to me Mr. President, we know are fragile and reversible. And sustaining them is going to require the Afghans to assume the responsibility for security and governance."
Biden said security forces in Afghanistan and in neighboring Pakistan need to exert more pressure on Taliban insurgents on both sides of the border to solidify their gains.
"But we know that in order to maintain the support and commitment of the people of Afghanistan and the American people, 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 who have rejected al-Qaida and renounce violence and are prepared to embrace the Afghan constitution," he said.
NATO-led international forces will begin the transfer of security responsibilities to the government of Afghanistan this year, while American combat troops plan to start a phased withdrawal in July.
Biden says the United States will continue training Afghan forces and provide civilian assistance to enable them to take control of the national security throughout the country by 2014. But he made it clear the United States does not intend to nation-build or govern Afghanistan.
"Hopefully, we will have totally turned over the ability to the Afghan security forces to maintain the security of the country," he said. "But we are not leaving if you do not want us to leave.
Biden arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise fact-finding mission, his first trip to the country as vice president. He is due to visit neighboring Pakistan and will hold talks Wednesday with Pakistani leaders.