Obama to send 30000 troops in Afghan

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama will Tuesday announce a swift surge of 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan within six months, but set a limit on the duration of their deployment, a US official said.

Obama will unveil a political and military gamble aimed at reining in the Taliban insurgency and training the Afghan army in a globally awaited televised speech, after an exhaustive months-long policy review.

While announcing he will pitch 30,000 more troops into the eight-year war, Obama will set a "back-end" for their deployment, to signal the US mission will not be a "decade-long" operation, the official told AFP.

Obama, following a protracted, and divisive policy review, had decided that plans for a slower ramp up of extra US troops would not work given deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan, the official said.

The length of the mission of the extra US troops, which will take the total US deployment in Afghanistan to 100,000, was not immediately clear.

In the speech at the US Military Academy at West Point at 8:00 pm (0100 GMT Wednesday), Obama must redefine the goals of the Afghan war, for a divided nation dismayed by rising US combat deaths and haunted by economic woes.

He needs to convince skeptics fearing a Vietnam-style quagmire, that a plan to boost troop numbers can fashion a victory of sorts and a path home for US forces sent to war after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Opinion polls show sliding public support for the war, with more than 900 American soldiers killed in Afghanistan and October the deadliest month yet with 74 US combat deaths. Many more foreign troops and Afghans have died.

Hours before heading to West Point Obama laid out his new strategy in an hour-long video conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, officials in Kabul and Washington said.

A US official would not go into detail about the discussions, but Obama aides have said the president will set clear expectations for the Afghan government, in improving security and cracking down on corruption.

Obama was also due to lay out his plans to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, after briefing Russia, France and Britain on Monday, with calls also scheduled with the German and Chinese leaders.

The president has spent months wrestling with a decision some backers fear could sink the promise of a reforming presidency.

Tuesday's speech, which will also freshen US strategy of Pakistan, will be closely watched by foreign governments weighing US intent and Obama is also expected to ask NATO partners for more troops.

Top advisors said Obama will tell Afghanistan and Pakistan that the United States cannot stay for ever, but also offer an almost contradictory assurance that Washington will not abandon them.

"This is not an open-ended commitment," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

"We are there to partner with the Afghans, to train the Afghan national security forces, the army and the police, so that they can provide security for their country and wage a battle against an unpopular insurgency."

In a first sign of increased allied help, NATO ally Britain said Monday it would this month send 500 more soldiers to boost its Afghan contingent to 9,500 men and women.

NATO allies France and Germany are also thought to be under pressure to add more troops.

Obama's policy review came to the boil after Afghan commander General Stanley McChrystal reported on the war to the Pentagon in August.

The Washington Post then revealed that the general had warned the war "will likely result in failure" without more troops to crush the insurgency.

Obama's task was further complicated by the corruption-tainted Afghan election, which fanned deep doubts about President Hamid Karzai.

Some administration officials, notably Vice President Joseph Biden, supported a more limited effort to pursue Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

While he will reveal his hand to the American people on Tuesday, Obama signed orders implementing the strategy on Sunday.

He then spoke directly by secure video-link to McChrystal and US ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry.

Anticipating the troop increase, several anti-war groups said that protests are scheduled Tuesday at the main entrance to the West Point academy, and Wednesday at federal buildings in several US cities.