Australian leader will visit Obama

By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 28, 2009

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will visit the White House on Monday as President Obama begins a week during which he will announce his war strategy in Afghanistan and appeal to allies such as Australia for more help.

The White House announced the meeting Friday. It said the two men would "confer on a range of issues, including Afghanistan and climate change in the run-up to Copenhagen," referring to the United Nations environmental conference to be held in the Danish capital next month.

Obama administration officials said that much of the discussion would focus on whether Australia would contribute more troops to the Afghan mission. They indicated that Rudd would be the first of several allied leaders whom Obama intends to meet with on the issue in the coming weeks.

Rudd announced in April that he would send 450 additional troops to Afghanistan, bringing the Australian deployment to more than 1,500 soldiers. About 100,000 international forces operate in Afghanistan under Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, 68,000 of them U.S. soldiers and Marines.

At the time of his announcement, Rudd said: "We cannot ignore this cold, hard strategic fact: Less security in Afghanistan means less security for Australians. Handing Afghanistan back to terrorist control will increase the threat to all Australians."

Obama is scheduled to announce his Afghan war strategy Tuesday during a prime-time speech from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

Although he has yet to offer details of his plan, which has been months in the making, the option that has the broadest support within the administration calls for sending 30,000 to 35,000 additional U.S. troops, a deployment that would unfold in stages over the next year.

As part of the strategy, Obama will be seeking 5,000 to 10,000 additional soldiers from NATO countries at a time when the European public is deeply opposed to the eight-year-old war.

McChrystal has asked Obama for 40,000 additional U.S. troops, meaning that NATO members would be asked to make up the balance between the option that the president is likely to announce and the general's preferred number.

A White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said the NATO appeals, carried out to date primarily by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, are "going better than expected."

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