19 Feb 2009

Further 17,000 troops heading to Afghanistan to fight Taleban

10:01 pm on 19 February 2009

United States President Barack Obama has authorised the deployment of 17,000 extra troops to Afghanistan.

Violence in Iraq has receded, but security in Afghanistan is getting worse under the threat of a resurgent Taleban.

Mr Obama is believed to be ultimately considering almost doubling the US force in Afghanistan to more than 60,000 from the current 38,000 within 18 months.

On the presidential campaign trail, Mr Obama argued that by focusing on Iraq, then US president George Bush was distracted from the more important war in Afghanistan.

In his statement announcing the fresh deployment, Mr Obama said Afghanistan "has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires."

He is undertaking a thorough review of Afghanistan policy and there are signs of strain between the new administration and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who was the darling of the Bush administration.

Mr Obama drew the ire of Mr Karzai earlier this month by saying Afghanistan's government seemed "very detached from what's going on in the surrounding community".

Iraq withdrawal

Mr Obama will make a decision in weeks, not "days or months", on cutting US troop levels in Iraq, a senior administration official said.

The president has pledged to pull out all US combat troops from Iraq within 16 months, while shifting thousands of soldiers to Afghanistan.