02/18/2009, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN
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Barack Obama: 17 thousand troops from Iraq to Afghanistan

8 thousand marines, 4 thousand soldiers, 5 thousand support staff will add to the 33 thousand military personnel already on the ground. The aim is to improve security once the winter thaw is over and in view of upcoming elections.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) – US president Barack Obama has authorised the deployment of up to 17,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, saying they are to "meet urgent security needs" in view of the upcoming elections. The troops were originally destined for Iraq.  But Obama had promised from the outset of his election that all US troops will be out of Iraq within 16 months.

The deployment will be made up of 8,000 marines, and 4,000 army soldiers, plus another 5,000 support staff. They will serve in the south of Afghanistan, where the violence has been worst. The additional troops are to be sent before warmer weather brings an expected increase in fighting between Taliban and Foreign Forces. Commanders on the ground forecast a rise in militancy ahead of August general elections.  The presidential vote was to have been held in May but had to be postponed because of the increased tensions.

The US already has about 14,000 troops serving with a Nato-led mission. There are also 19,000 US troops under sole US command charged with fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents. US commanders in Afghanistan have requested 30,000 additional troops. The announcement came after the UN said that the number of civilians killed in the conflict in Afghanistan rose by 39% last year. Militants were to blame for 55% of the 2,118 civilian deaths, while US, Nato and Afghan forces were responsible for 39%, according to the UN report - the highest number since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

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