US vice president makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan

March 20th, 2008 - 7:56 pm ICT by admin  

Kabul, March 20 (DPA) US Vice President Dick Cheney arrived Thursday in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit, and held talks with the Afghan president and other cabinet members. Cheney, who is on his fourth trip to the war-torn country as vice-president, arrived at the fortified Afghan presidential palace by helicopter and held talks with President Hamid Karzai and senior members of his cabinet behind closed doors.

In a joint press conference later with Karzai, Cheney reiterated his government’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan and said that it was important for the NATO-led alliance to increase its presence in the country.

NATO has around 43,000 multi-national troops in Afghanistan, some of whom, including Canadian, British, Dutch and US forces, fight Taliban-led insurgents in the troubled southern and eastern parts of the country.

Other countries, like Germany, France, Spain and Italy, have restricted their forces to relatively peaceful areas such as the capital Kabul and the northern and western provinces.

NATO commanders on the ground have asked for an additional 7,000 troops from the contributing countries to contain Taliban attacks in the spring and summer of this year.

While Cheney urged the alliance to increase their presence in Afghanistan, he admitted that much needed to be done in building up the Afghan national army forces.

Speaking at the same press conference, Karzai thanked the US government and its people for their assistance and stressed that the lasting solution for Afghanistan’s problem was strengthening of local forces.

Cheney’s visit came some two weeks before a NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, where the US and other NATO members are expected to pledge a long-term commitment to help Afghanistan become a stable nation.

Cheney last visited Afghanistan in February 2007. During his trip, a suicide bomber killed 16 people outside Bagram air base, the main US military base in Afghanistan. Cheney was inside at the time but escaped injury.

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