In joint appearance with Karzai, VP says “Taliban momentum” has been “largely arrested” in key areas, but “there are many hard days that lie ahead.”
Pool Report #6:
Forward Operating Base (FOB) Airborne in Wardak Province, Afghanistan:
After his joint avail with President Karzai, Vice President Biden traveled to Wardak Province for a meeting with local Afghan officials and US personnel to discuss counter-insurgency operations in the region.
He arrived at the site by helo around 4pm. Pool arrived ahead of him. To get here, Biden took a roughly 20-minute helo ride into the mountains. The FOB is a sprawling fortress, surrounded by imposing snow-capped mountains
Biden was joined by Gen. Petraeus, who has been accompanying him on all his stops today.
The meeting was held in a room with a square conference table that had a large flat screen at the head.
Biden entered the room and immediately fussed over the governor of the province, Halim Fidai, who, like the other attendees, had stood to greet him.
“Governor, how are you?” Biden said, shaking hands. “I’ve heard really good things about you. We need you to come to the States, we could use some good governors.”
He then shook hands with the local police chief and went around the room, a translator at his side, greeting the various officials.
Pool ushered out after a few minutes.
After the briefing, VPOTUS shook hands with some service members outside here and handed out some vice presidential coins. He asked each one – about a dozen – where he or she was from and thanked them for their service. Petraeus also worked the line.
VPOTUS was wheels up in a helo from the site at 5 pm. Pool was wheels up shortly after and arrived at Bagram Air base at 5:30 pm local, following a 20-minute flight over the mountains as the sun was setting.
VPOTUS is getting a briefing here from senior government and military officials.
Background from WH on FOB stop:
The Vice President is visiting Forward Operating Base (FOB) Airborne in Wardak Province to meet with military leadership, servicemembers, civilian personnel, and Afghan community leaders to receive an update on counterinsurgency operations in the region. Vice President Biden will be briefed on efforts made by U.S. and Afghan forces to clear and hold surrounding areas that will eventually be transferred to Afghan security control. The Vice President will be greeted by Col. Bruce Antonia.
VPOTUS pool report #5
Vice President Biden and Afghan President Hamid Karzai made statements to the press following their meetings:
Pool did not get anything Karzai said because we were told he would speak in English and he did not WH transcript will probably include Karzai comments.
Highlights of VPOTUS remarks:
“We have largely arrested the Taliban momentum here in some very important areas,” Biden said. “But these gains, as you pointed out to me Mr. President, we know are fragile and reversible.”
Sustaining them, he said, will require strong Afghan security forces eventually taking the lead and for Pakistan to make more of an effort to root out terrorist enclaves along the border
“There are many hard days that lie ahead,” Biden said.
“We now have a viable path going forward,” Biden said, speaking of the administration’s plan to begin drawing down U.S. troops in July 2011 and the NATO allies agreement for Afghan forces to assume security lead in 2014.
Biden: “We’ve moved into a new phase in Afghanistan: transition to full Afghan lead beginning this year and concluding in 2014.”
Biden: “It is not our intention to govern or to nation-build. As President Karzai often points out, this is the responsibility of the Afghan people and they are fully capable of it.”
Biden said the United States will continue to assist the Afghan government as it needs and wants.
“We are not leaving if you don’t want us to leave,” he said.
Biden paid tribute to not just Karzai’s leadership but “the extraordinary personal courage” he showed in leading the country in 2002.
They took no questions, with Karzai asking if they were going to take questions as Biden went to leave and Biden saying he was running late to another appointment.
They stood several feet apart from each other at separate podiums. Biden wore a suit; Karzai his traditional robes. Karzai had his hat on at the start but took it off when Biden mentioned the late Amb. Richard Holbrooke.
Motorcade was moving from the palace shortly before 3:30 pm local.