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World News

Brown calls for backing for Obama Afghan plan

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on Wednesday for coalition countries to back U.S. President Barack Obama’s plans to send an extra 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.

“I call on all our allies to unite behind President Obama’s strategy,” said Brown, who on Monday confirmed that Britain would send an extra 500 soldiers -- taking Britain’s troop level including special forces to around 10,000 -- to help tackle worsening violence and train Afghan forces.

“Britain will continue to play its full part in persuading other countries to offer troops to the Afghanistan campaign.”

Brown said a vital next stage would be a conference in London on Afghanistan on January 28 to which all 43 countries involved in the NATO-led action would be invited.

This would discuss the transfer of provinces to Afghan control, support “commitments by President Karzai on Afghan reforms to build up the Afghan army and police,” and to secure further support from international partners, he said.

Britain’s Chief of Defence Staff Jock Stirrup, the head of the country’s armed forces, said he was delighted with the troop surge.

“It’s what all of us who have been involved in the operation in Afghanistan has assessed is required if we are to resource a plan to deliver the strategy which we have been holding to for some time,” he told BBC radio.

“They are providing three-quarters of what (U.S. General Stanley McChrystal) has asked for and as the NATO Secretary General has said he is confident that other nations will be increasing their commitments too.”

Stirrup said he was confident that the faster training of Afghan forces would make it possible to meet Obama’s 2011 timeline to start withdrawing troops.

“By 2011 I certainly believe, as does General McChrystal, that we will be seeing a significant change in the leadership of these combat operations between ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops and the Afghan national security forces,” he said.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having targets and milestones against which we can measure progress and against which to be frank we can force the pace.”

Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Keith Weir

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