KABUL: Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that America will not cut and run in 2014, when the US-led military coalition plans to hand over control of security to Afghan forces.
Speaking after a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Biden said training and aid will continue even after responsibility for security is handed over. He added that both sides share a common goal of a ''stable, sovereign Afghanistan.''
If ''the Afghan people want it, we won't leave in 2014,'' the vice president said a day after arriving in the country for a surprise visit.
Tensions have surfaced between the Obama administration and an increasingly nationalistic Karzai, whose government is plagued by charges of corruption. US officials have expressed grave concerns about how this is affecting efforts to stabilize and rebuild the country.
Just a month ago, Obama came to Afghanistan but did not meet with Karzai. The White House said that foul weather foiled plans to take Obama to the presidential palace in Kabul from the Bagram Air Field military base where he landed, and that technical difficulties prevented the two presidents from talking by secure videoconference.
Although the two leaders spoke briefly by telephone, the change of plans was seen by some in Karzai's circle as a snub.
Biden's visit could be aimed in part at smoothing things over with Karzai. A senior US official traveling with the vice president tried to present a united front on Monday, saying the US and Karzai are ''very much on the same page.''
Biden himself tried to reassure Afghans at the news conference that it ''is not our intention to govern or to nation build'' and that United States had ''moved into a new phase in Afghanistan which relates to the transition of security responsibility to Afghans.''
Biden said he was last in Afghanistan two years ago and that much had changed since then.
''We have a strategy and the resources in place to accomplish the goal of a stable and growing and independent Afghanistan able to provide for its own security,'' he said.
''And the process to be able at the same time, to disrupt and dismantle, defeat, eliminate al-Qaida in Pakistan and what little appearance there is in Afghanistan.''