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US to deploy more troops in Afghanistan

Washington, December 1, 2009

President Barack Obama on Monday prepared to announce he will deploy about 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan as part of a new strategy that aims to lay the ground for an eventual withdrawal.  

After three months of deliberations, Obama will outline his plans in an address to war-weary Americans on Tuesday at 8 pm
EST/0100 Wednesday GMT from the US Military Academy at West Point, New York.

His aim is turn the tide on what US military commanders call a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan due to a resurgent Taliban.

He may face a tough sell at home with many Americans skeptical of sending more troops and wanting more focus on the weak US economy and 10.2 percent jobless rate.

Obama told US military commanders on Sunday he had settled on a plan and gave the orders to carry it out, the White House said. He also held a meeting to inform top advisers of his decision.

'The commander in chief delivered the orders,' said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.   

Obama briefed allies on his plan on Monday and will talk to congressional leaders on Tuesday before delivering his speech.
   
The troop increase represents a major investment by Obama in the war shortly before he travels to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. It will likely set off a battle in the US
Congress over funding since his own Democrats oppose a big troop surge. The added cost could reach $20-40 billion.

Gibbs would not detail Obama's strategy, but other US officials said Obama would announce that he has authorized sending about 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.   

The shift in strategy will put a greater emphasis on securing Afghan population centers and a major increase in training of Afghan security forces to gradually assume control.

Obama's emerging plan attempts to satisfy concerns on both sides of the US political divide and represents a middle ground between conflicting options advocated by some of his senior advisers.

Sending more troops addresses demands from his generals and congressional Republicans, while stressing that the US commitment is not open-ended is an attempt to placate skeptical Democrats and many Americans weary of the war and its cost.

Obama is not expected to set a specific pullout date. The strategy envisages a phased-in troop buildup over the next 12 to 18 months followed by a gradual US drawdown and handover to Afghan forces over three to five years, officials said.

Pentagon officials hope Nato member-states eventually will supplement the US surge with up to 10,000 of their own troops and trainers, pushing the overall number of extra troops close to 40,000, the number recommended by the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal.   

But Britain has said it expects countries to pledge a further 5,000 troops on top of those sent by Obama.-Reuters




Tags: Afghanistan | Obama |

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