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Biden Meets Afghan President, Military Leaders In Kabul

U.S. Vice President-elect Joseph Biden in Afghanistan
KABUL (Reuters) -- U.S. Vice President-elect Joseph Biden met Afghan President Hamid Karzai and military leaders on January 10 in Afghanistan, which will become a top foreign policy priority of the new administration.

One of the first decisions U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is expected to make is to approve the deployment of up to 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan to try to stem the strengthening Taliban insurgency before Afghan elections due in September.

Biden also met General David McKiernan, commander of the 65,000-strong international troop presence in Afghanistan and they discussed border security efforts.

McKiernan told Biden "this year there are lots of opportunities to make significant advances in Afghanistan," according to Colonel Greg Julien, spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

"[McKiernan] has been talking about the need to increase the number of ground maneuver brigades as well as helicopters, military police and other associated enablers and the additional requirements we need to help build governance," Julien said.

Earlier, Biden met the UN special representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, and discussed security, police reform, donor coordination, and regional cooperation. Eide said the meeting was very constructive.

Biden, longtime chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has made many trips to Afghanistan and diplomats say he has a detailed knowledge of the country.

After U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban government for sheltering the Al-Qaeda leaders behind the September 11 attacks, analysts say the Bush administration lost its focus on Afghanistan, diverting military and financial resources to Iraq.

The Taliban regrouped and relaunched their insurgency in mid-2005 and fighting has spread from the militant heartlands in the south and east to the outskirts of the capital, Kabul.

The first batch of U.S. reinforcements, some 3,000 troops, is due in Afghanistan this month, taking up positions just south and southwest of Kabul.

Most of the rest of the extra forces are likely to be sent to the south to break the stalemate between the Taliban and the mainly British, Canadian and Dutch troops there.