The Los Angeles Times reports:
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Afghanistan on Monday night for a series of meetings meant to gauge the progress toward a drawdown of U.S. forces later this year and an eventual handoff of security responsibilities to the Afghans. Biden will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday and also will tour an Afghan national army training center, according to Obama administration officials. The trip, which was unannounced for safety reasons, is Biden's first visit to the war zone since becoming vice president. After landing at Kabul International Airport at 7:24 p.m. local time, Biden was greeted by U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the war effort. They later spoke privately for nearly two hours at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Afterward, they posed for pictures but said nothing about the war effort, chitchatting instead about college football bowl games. The press was ushered out after a couple of minutes. "The visit comes at an important time,'' a senior Obama administration official told reporters aboard Air Force 2, en route to Afghanistan. "This is a pivot point in our policy. We moved from a [troop] surge last year to the transition to Afghan lead that we'll be starting this year and concluding in 2014. So what he [Biden] wants to do in the first instance is to assess the progress we're making toward transition — hence the different briefings that he'll be having and the different visits he'll be making."