Feb 18, 2009

Obama approves 17,000 troops increase for Afghanistan

U.S. President Barack Obama approved adding some 17,000 U.S. troops for the flagging war in Afghanistan, his first significant move to change the course of a conflict that his closest military advisers have warned the United States is not winning.“This increase is necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires,'' Obama said in a statement.That was a slap at his predecessor, former President George W. Bush, whom Obama has accused of slighting urgent national security needs in Afghanistan in favor of war in Iraq. The White House said the new commander in chief would send a Marine unit and one additional Army brigade to Afghanistan this spring and summer.About 8,000 Marines are expected to go first, followed by an Army brigade, totalling about 4,000 troops, and 5,000 support forces.The United States has slightly more than 30,000 troops in the country now.Obama's decision shifts the Army brigade and several thousand Marines from already approved deployments to Iraq later this year to new destinations in southern Afghanistan. As a result, the number of combat brigades in Iraq will likely drop from 14 to 12 by the summer, unless other units are identified to fill those slots. A decision on that troop cut in Iraq has not yet been made, but Obama campaigned on a pledge to bring combat troops out of Iraq.The new troops represent the first installment on a larger influx of U.S. forces widely expected this year. The additional forces partly answer a standing request from the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, who has sought as many as 30,000 additional U.S. troops to counter the resurgence of the Taliban militants and protect Afghan civilians. “There is no more solemn duty as president than the decision to deploy our armed forces into harm's way,'' Obama said.“I do it today mindful that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention and swift action.''

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