Joe Biden says US troops in Afghanistan may stay

By Bilal Sarwary
BBC News, Kabul

image captionMr Biden's visit has been surrounded by tight security

US Vice-President Joe Biden has said that his country will not leave Afghanistan in 2014 if the Afghan people do not want them to go.

Speaking alongside President Hamid Karzai, Mr Biden said that the two countries share a common goal of a stable, sovereign Afghanistan.

Mr Biden is on the second day of his first visit to Afghanistan since becoming vice-president.

He stressed that the US would not abandon the war-torn nation.

On several occasions during a press conference Mr Biden praised President Hamid Karzai for his leadership.

But analysts say thorny issues such as government corruption remain a major source of tension between Kabul and Washington.

Mr Biden and Mr Karzai have not in the past enjoyed the best of relationships - the US vice-president recently criticised the way presidential elections were conducted in Afghanistan.

Mr Biden is visiting Afghanistan at a time when the administration is gearing up for a reduction in US forces in the country beginning from July.

image captionThe vice-president and president have at time had a fraught relationship

The US officially wants to hand over security responsibility to Afghan forces by 2014 and is investing substantial resources in setting up and running training facilities for the Afghan army and police.

Mr Biden, however, knows that the transition of power is easier said than done.

In recent weeks, the Taliban has launched audacious attacks against the army and police in what officials say are attempts to undermine the transition.

On Tuesday the vice-president said that the army and police were making "good progress".

Last month he said that American troops would "be totally out of there" in 2014 "come hell or high water".

On Tuesday Mr Biden struck a different tone - pointing out that the Obama administration was committed to "disrupt, dismantle and destroy" the Taliban even though progress was "fragile and reversible".

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