With nearly all the additional troops as ordered by President Barack Obama in place, the US is making measurable progress in its war against terrorism in Afghanistan, Vice-President Joe Biden has said.
The war in Afghanistan had been neglected in the past, but the US now has a clearly defined strategy, backed by the resources needed to implement it, he said while addressing the 111th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Indianapolis.
"And we are making measurable progress focused on the overarching goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so that it no longer threatens America and our allies," he said.
"In order to do this, we must deny al Qaeda a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban's momentum. We must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's security forces and government so that they can begin to assume primary responsibility for their country's future," he said.
Besides, Biden acknowledged that Afghanistan poses unique and daunting challenges, including a local population scarred by more than three decades of war and plagued by illiteracy, crushing poverty, and corrupt governance.
"The country's harsh terrain is some of the least hospitable our forces have ever had to navigate. I've seen it firsthand, including two years ago when a surprise blizzard forced my helicopter to land between two snowy peaks, on a road not much wider than the rotor blades, about 9,000 feet up, with a steep drop on both sides," he said.
Biden said nearly all of the additional personnel Obama ordered to the region are now in place, along with about 10,000 new troops and trainers provided by our allies for the International Security Assistance Force.
"General Petraeus only now has all the resources that the strategy calls for. Together, they are working tirelessly to strengthen the Afghan security forces, and to take insurgents on in regions where they have run roughshod for too long. That effort is being complemented by an unprecedented surge of civilian diplomats and technical experts," he said.
In the meantime, the US is pushing the Afghan government to step up its efforts to tackle corruption, and devise a plan of reintegration for the portion of the Taliban that is ready to lay down its arms and join the government.
"We will assess the progress made in December and begin a responsible conditions-based transition to Afghan security leadership, on a province-by-province basis, in July 2011, a date that represents both our sense of urgency for Afghanistan to step up and our resolve to meet our stated goals," Biden said.