WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama took the first step towards keeping a campaign pledge to bolster security in Afghanistan by authorizing the deployment of 17,000 fresh U.S. troops to the country where the plot for the September 11, 2001 attacks was hatched.
While violence in Iraq has receded as a result of a U.S. troop increase ordered there two years ago by then-President George W. Bush, security in Afghanistan is getting worse under the threat of a resurgent Taliban.
* Obama’s decision to deploy the troops was one of his first major national security moves on a war that began more than seven years ago and is now his. Since he took office on January 20, the United States has continued firing rockets at targets from Predator drones aimed at killing militants on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
* The 17,000 extra troops are likely to represent a down payment on an increased U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Obama is believed to be ultimately considering almost doubling the U.S. force in Afghanistan to more than 60,000 from the current 38,000 within 18 months.
* On the campaign trail, Obama argued that by focussing on Iraq, Bush was distracted from the more important war in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden plotted the September 11 attacks on the United States.
* In his statement announcing the fresh deployment, Obama said Afghanistan “has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires.”
* He is undertaking a thorough review of Afghanistan policy and there are signs of strain between the new administration and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who was the darling of the Bush administration.
* Obama drew the ire of Karzai earlier this month by saying that Afghanistan’s government seemed “very detached from what’s going on in the surrounding community.” Karzai said in response on CNN that he hoped of the new administration that “as they settle down, and as they learn more, we’ll see better judgement.”
Editing by Frances Kerry