Afghanistan summit begins Tuesday

March 30, 2009 at 8:24 AM
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THE HAGUE, Netherlands, March 30 (UPI) -- U.S. officials begin outlining the Obama administration's strategy for Afghanistan this week during a conference in the Netherlands.

At The Hague on Tuesday, 23 nations and 11 international organizations and non-profit observers are expected to attend a conference to secure support for a renewed international effort to stabilize the increasingly volatile country, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

"More than anything else, this will be an opportunity (for U.S officials) to present the outcome of their review," said a spokeswoman for Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign-policy chief.

The new strategy calls for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan to go after Taliban and al-Qaida militants and assist the Afghan government fight the opium trade, build up its army and strengthen its presence in the provinces.

Interest in the Afghanistan summit is high because Iran will be at the table, the Journal reported. While Iranian leaders had participated -- or been invited to participate -- in previous conferences, "they were ignored when they came. That seems to be changing," said James Dobbins, a former U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan now with the Rand Corp.

A NATO official also met with an Iranian diplomat concerning Afghanistan March 9, shortly after the Hague conference was announced, the alliance confirmed. NATO has 62,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan.

The European Union's foreign affairs commissioner said the organization may use Afghanistan conference to announce an increase in aid to the country, currently at $825 million for 2007-10.

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