US presidential contender Barack Obama pledged steadfast aid to Afghanistan in talks with its western-backed leader today and vowed to pursue the war on terror "with vigour" if he is elected, an Afghan official said.
On the third day of an international tour designed to burnish his foreign policy credentials, Mr Obama and other American senators held two hours of talks with President Hamid Karzai at his palace in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Mr Obama has chided Mr Karzai for not doing more to build confidence in the Afghan government, whose grip remains weak eight years after the Taliban was ousted.
US Embassy spokesman Mark Stroh said the senators discussed the painstaking rebuilding of the country's government and economy, the security situation and corruption with Mr Karzai.
The Afghan presidency said Mr Obama's message was positive.
"Senator Mr Obama conveyed ... that he is committed to supporting Afghanistan and to continue the war against terrorism with vigour," said Humayun Hamidzada, Mr Karzai's spokesman.
Both Democrats and Republicans "are friends of Afghanistan and no matter who wins the US elections, Afghanistan will have a very strong partner in the United States," Hamidzada said.
Mr Obama, the presumed Democratic candidate for the US election in November, has made Afghanistan a centrepiece of his proposed strategy for dealing with terrorism threats.
He has said the war in Afghanistan, where Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants are resurgent, deserves more troops and more attention as opposed to the conflict in Iraq.
While officially part of a congressional delegation on a fact-finding tour also expected to take him to Iraq, Mr Obama was travelling in Afghanistan amid the security accorded a likely Democratic nominee for president rather than a senator from Illinois.
Media access to Mr Obama was limited, and his itinerary in the war zones was a closely guarded secret. Travelling with him were Senators Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, and Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island.
Mr Obama made no public comment after the meeting with Mr Karzai, which included a traditional lunch of mutton, chicken and rice washed down with a yoghurt drink.