WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden has arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit "to assess progress toward the transition to Afghan-led security beginning this year, and to demonstrate the United States' commitment to a long-term partnership with Afghanistan," the White House announced Monday.
The trip is Biden's first to Afghanistan since becoming vice president, though he traveled there as vice president-elect in 2009.
According to a pool reporter traveling with Biden, he will meet Monday night with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry to get an "update from them on the situation on the ground."
On Tuesday, Biden is scheduled to have lunch with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, to be followed by a larger meeting of officials from both nations.
Biden, sporting a Philadelphia Eagles cap, left from Andrews Air Force Base Sunday evening. Air Force Two refueled enroute to Kabul International Airport at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
President Obama traveled to Afghanistan in December, though a planned face-to-face meeting with Karzai was canceled because of weather-related travel problems.
A review of the progress of America's mission in Afghanistan, released by the White House in December, found that the "strategy is showing progress," especially against Al Qaeda in Pakistan, and is "setting the conditions to begin a responsible reduction of U.S. forces in July 2011," the date previously set by Obama for beginning withdrawals.
Biden has made multiple trips to Iraq, one of several major policy initiatives Obama has charged to the vice president. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Obama's senior envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, died Dec. 13.
Mitt Romney, a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2012, was also due to arrive in Afghanistan this week as part of a weeklong trip that included stops in Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Romney's political action committee said he would have "high-level meetings" with Karzai, among other leaders. His trip to Afghanistan was being facilitated by the International Republican Institute.