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Biden in Afghanistan Ahead of US Troop Surge

The next vice president of the United States has met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as the incoming U.S. administration prepares to make Afghanistan a focus of its foreign policy.

U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden spoke with Mr. Karzai and other officials in Afghanistan Saturday.

The U.S. has almost half of the 65,000 NATO troops stationed in the war-ravaged nation, and is expected to send another 30,000 troops to help rein-in a surge in violence.

Biden also met with the head of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, and United Nations representative Kai Eide.

The Associated Press reports General McKiernan told Biden new U.S. forces will need more helicopters and support to beat back Taliban insurgents who have caused violence to spike, especially in the southern part of the country.

A U.N. spokesman says Biden's meeting with Eide focused on security, as well as political and developmental issues.

During his visit, Biden also thanked U.S. troops for making a "big sacrifice in a [challenging] environment."

The Democrat's visit follows a trip to Pakistan, where he held separate talks Friday with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari.

Discussions focused on Pakistan's commitment to the war on terrorism, as well as heightened tensions between Pakistan and India since the November terror attacks in Mumbai.

Biden says he is making the multi-nation trip as the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is leading a congressional delegation that also includes Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of the southern U.S. state of South Carolina.

Earlier this week, Biden's office released a statement saying the delegation would be on a fact-finding mission, but did not disclose the itinerary or other details for security reasons.

In Washington, Biden's letter of resignation from the Senate was read by the clerk at the end of Friday's Senate session.

The vice president-elect and President-elect Barack Obama will be sworn into office on January 20.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.