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US: Obama thanks Rudd for troop boost in Afghanistan

30 Apr 2009 1:17 AM

WASHINGTON, April 29 AFP - US President Barack Obama called Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to thank him for boosting his country's troop commitment in Afghanistan, the White House said on Wednesday.

Obama, who has made the war in Afghanistan one of the top priorities of his administration, "welcomes Prime Minister Rudd's announcement of Australia's decision to increase its already significant military, civilian, and financial commitment to Afghanistan," the White House said in a statement.

"Enhanced commitments like Australia's are critical if we are to meet our shared goal of disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al-Qaeda and its extremist allies and preventing Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven."

The president called Rudd Tuesday evening Washington time, shortly after the Australian leader made the announcement to increase his nation's troop commitment in Afghanistan by 450 soldiers to 1,550 to reduce the terror threat from the increasingly unstable nation.

The contribution "will help support the upcoming presidential election, accelerate and enhance the training of Afghan security forces, and bolster efforts to build and strengthen civilian institutions and advance opportunity for the Afghan people", the White House said.

Rudd acknowledged the move would result in more Australian deaths and be widely opposed by the public, as analysts warned the protracted and increasingly bloody conflict could last another decade.

Obama, marking his 100th day in office on Wednesday, is implementing an exit strategy from Iraq after his predecessor George W. Bush launched an invasion of the country six years ago, and is increasing US troop levels in Afghanistan to counter a growing insurgency.

The United States is preparing to send an extra 21,000 troops in the coming months to Afghanistan, joining about 38,000 US troops already there.