Biden tells Karzai US not in Afghanistan to "govern"
US vice president seeks an update on progress in war against Taliban, Qaeda.
Kabul: US Vice President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that his country will not withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014 if Afghans did not want the United States to pull back its troops.
There are about 97,000 American troops in Afghanistan who, under Washington`s plan, are expected to start withdrawing in July ahead of the scheduled transfer of responsibility for security to Afghan forces in 2014.
But Biden, on the second day of his visit to the war-torn country, told a press conference in Kabul: "We`re not leaving if you don`t want us to leave."
Earlier during the visit to the Kabul Military Training Centre just outside the capital, Biden was briefed on the program, which is costing USD 20 billion over 2010 and 2011. The program is also teaching recruits to read and write, as only 11 percent of enlisted personnel and 35 percent of non-commissioned officers in Afghanistan`s Army and police are literate.
The coalition hopes to train about 300,000 Army and police officers by the end of the year. The Afghan Army now has 149,553 personnel and is projected to grow to 171,600 by October, according to NATO figures. The Air Force is slated to grow from 4,098 personnel in December to 5,500 by November. The police force is projected to hit 134,000 by October, up from 115,584 by the end of last year.
The US-funded program is paying for training, equipment and infrastructure. The funding for 2010 and 2011 is a large increase over the USD 20 billion spent between 2003 and 2009.
The US plans to begin withdrawing combat forces from Afghanistan in July but remains concerned that gains made in the nearly decade-long war could be reversible. There are also questions about the ability of Afghan security forces to take up the fight against a virulent insurgency.
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 stabilise and rebuild the country.
Karzai`s relations with US diplomatic officials in Kabul are thought to be testy at best, and he has often complained of international interference in Afghanistan`s political affairs. Last week he told foreign powers to stop meddling in the country`s internal affairs — apparently lashing out at those who say rampant government corruption undermines rebuilding the nation. He was careful not to single out specific issue, but fraud-marred elections have also been a recent target of international criticism.