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Biden: U.S. willing to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014

By the CNN Wire Staff
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden chat Tuesday during Biden's visit to Kabul.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden chat Tuesday during Biden's visit to Kabul.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Biden said last month that the U.S. would be "totally" out of Afghanistan by 2014
  • Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. is willing to stay beyond that date if asked
  • The U.S. plans to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan this July
  • The U.S. will stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014 if the Afghans ask, Biden says

(CNN) -- U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014 if Afghans want them to, Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday.

President Barack Obama has announced plans to begin withdrawing some troops from Afghanistan this July, with all U.S. combat troops scheduled to be out of Afghanistan by 2014.

The United States does not intend "to govern or nation-build" as that "is the responsibility of the Afghan people and they are fully capable of it," Biden said Tuesday, according to a journalist traveling with him.

"We stand ready to help you in that effort ... after 2014," the vice president said.

Biden's comments Tuesday come a month after he told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the United States would be "totally out" of Afghanistan by 2014 "come hell or high water."

In November, at a conference in Lisbon, Portugal, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen signed a long-term partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai under which "NATO will stay as long as necessary to support Afghanistan until it can no longer become a safe haven for terrorism."

NATO and non-NATO nations with troops in Afghanistan agreed then that Afghan security forces would increasingly take the lead on security operations in Afghanistan beginning early this year.

In the interview with "Meet the Press," Biden drew comparisons to the U.S. military's presence in Iraq. He noted that the United States had followed through on an agreement with Iraq to withdraw combat troops from cities, then elsewhere. Simultaneous to the troop withdrawals, the U.S. helped strengthen Iraq's government and transferred more responsibility for security to Iraqi forces.

At the conference in Lisbon, Biden said, the United States told its allies that the United States would follow a similar path in Afghanistan.

"That's exactly what we did at the recent Lisbon conference, the NATO conference, where we said, 'We're starting this process, just like we did in Iraq,' " Biden said. "'We're starting it in July of 2011, and we're going to be totally out of there come hell or high water by 2014."