Vice President Biden, standing with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul on Tuesday, said that U.S. and NATO forces are on the right path to leaving Afghanistan by 2014 but that security gains are tenuous.
Biden, who made an unannounced trip to the country late Sunday night, hailed Karzai's efforts and the strides allied forces have taken in arresting Taliban momentum.
"There are many hard days that lie ahead," Biden said.
Still, Biden said, Afghanistan and U.S. and NATO forces "now have a viable path going forward."
"We've moved into a new phase in Afghanistan: transition to full Afghan lead beginning this year and concluding in 2014," Biden said.
To underscore that goal, Biden spent part of Tuesday morning touring the Kabul Military Training Center, where he watched training exercises and met with Afghan forces.
While Biden reaffirmed the U.S. and NATO goal of a full transition to Afghan-led security in 2014, he echoed the NATO agreement that forces will stay on to assist the country for an undetermined amount of time.
"We are not leaving if you do not want us to leave," Biden said. But the vice president repeated Obama's December declaration that U.S. forces are not in Afghanistan for nation-building.
"It is not our intention to govern or to nation-build," Biden said. "As President Karzai often points out, this is the responsibility of the Afghan people and they are fully capable of it."