US to send more troops to Afghanistan

Washington, July 3:

Grappling with a record death toll in an overshadowed war, President George W Bush promised to send more US troops into Afghanistan by year’s end. He conceded that June was a “tough month” in the nearly 7-year-old war.

In fact, it was the deadliest month for US troops in Afghanistan since the conflict began.

“One reason why there have been more deaths is because our troops are taking the fight to a tough enemy, an enemy who doesn’t like our presence there because they don’t like the idea of America denying safe haven (to terrorists),” Bush told reporters yesterday.

“Of course there’s going to be resistance.” Bush said it was a tough month too for the Taliban fighters.

More US and NATO troops have died in the past two months in Afghanistan than in Iraq, a place with triple the number of US and allied forces.

Bush confronted the grim direction of the Afghanistan conflict during a sun-splashed appearance in the Rose Garden of the White House. The president used the event to promote his agenda for a coming meeting in Japan of the Group of Eight industrialised countries, and then spoke about Iran, climate change and gasoline prices in a short session with reporters.

“We’re going to increase troops by 2009,” Bush said, without offering details of exactly when or how many.

It amounted to a reiteration by Bush of a promised build up of US troops in Afghanistan.

He said coalition forces have doubled in size over two years and pledged that the twin strategy of fighting extremists and supporting Afghanistan’s civil development “is going to work.” Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said more

troops are essential to stem the violence.

Overall, roughly 32,000 US troops are in Afghanistan, including 14,000 with NATO

forces and 18,000 conducting training and counterinsurgency.