Vice President Joe Biden arrives to introduce U.S. President Barack Obama who signed the middle-class tax cut bill in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House in Washington on December 17, 2010. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo
KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Afghanistan Monday on an unannounced trip to assess progress in transferring security responsibility to Afghan troops.
Biden met with U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, top commander in Afghanistan, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry for about an hour at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
"The visit comes at an important time," a senior administration official said during a briefing aboard Air Force Two. "This is a pivot point in our policy. We moved from a surge last year to the transition to Afghan lead that we'll be starting this year and concluding in 2014."
The official said the Obama administration and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are "very much on the same page."
NATO and coalition allies agree that 2011 marks the start of the transition of security responsibility to Afghan forces, he said.
"By 2014 the Afghans will be in the lead throughout the country as President Karzai suggested," the official speaking on background said. "So this is a very good moment to assess the progress we're making toward starting the transition and the work that remains to be done."
Discussing Karzai's criticisms about international "meddling" in his country, the official said, "No one wants foreigners in their country. And the whole point of what we're doing is transitioning to Afghan lead and Afghan responsibility."
Obama has been clear that the United States isn't in Afghanistan to govern or nation-build but to "help put the Afghans in a position where they can fully assume the responsibilities of governing the country and securing the country."