KABUL: US Vice President Joe Biden landed in the Afghan capital Kabul Monday, where he will hold talks with President Hamid Karzai at the start of a year when US troops are expected to begin limited withdrawals.
Officials travelling with Biden said that, as well as meeting Karzai, he would also meet the commander of international troops in Afghanistan, US General David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry.
“The primary purpose of the trip is to assess progress toward the transition to Afghan-led security beginning this year, and to demonstrate the United States' commitment to a long-term partnership with Afghanistan,” the White House said in a statement.
“While in Afghanistan, the Vice President will meet with President Hamid Karzai, visit with US service members and civilian personnel, and tour an Afghan National Army Training Center.”
There are currently about 97,000 American troops in Afghanistan as part of a 140,000-strong international troop force.
Limited, conditions-based troop withdrawals are expected to start in July ahead of a scheduled transfer of responsibility for security to Afghan forces in 2014.
The visit comes four days after the US announced it was sending an extra 1,400 Marines to southern Afghanistan, seen as the heart of the Taliban insurgency, in a bid to pre-empt an expected spring offensive in April or May.
Biden, who flew to Afghanistan unannounced, last visited the country as vice president-elect in January 2009.