በቀላሉ የመሥሪያ ማገናኛዎች

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U.S. President Barack Obama will announce a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan Tuesday that includes sending at least 30,000 more American troops. The speech will be given at 8 p.m. tonight when the President addresses the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

The increase will bring the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to about 100,000.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told major U.S. television networks that the president will discuss a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal during his speech.

U.S. forces have been fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan since 2001. The Obama administration is struggling to counter declining U.S. public support for the war.

President Obama discussed his war strategy earlier Tuesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and he was also expected to call Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

The announcement follows months of deliberations by President Obama and his national security team. The commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, had asked for 40,000 additional troops.

Spokesman Gibbs said the Obama administration believes its allies also will send more troops to Afghanistan.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday Berlin is not ready to contribute more troops to the war. She said Germany would make a decision after an international conference on Afghanistan next month in London.

On Monday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he will send 500 additional troops to Afghanistan in December, boosting his country's forces there to more than 10,000.

French Defense Minister Herve Morin said late Monday his country is not likely to contribute more troops to the war. But he said France plans to bolster its role in the war by providing more aid for reconstruction.

A communiqué sent to news agencies by e-mail says a multi-front offensive launched by the Ogaden National Liberation Front November 10th is still in progress.The communiqué, believed to be sent from ONLF offices in Europe, says 626 Ethiopian troops have died, and the battlefields are littered with bodies of soldiers.

It describes ONLF casualties as 'minimal', but gives no details. Another rebel communiqué issued Friday said the rebels had captured seven towns along the border with Somalia.

The reports could not be independently verified. Journalists are not permitted into the region. But Ethiopian government spokesman Shimelis Kemal told VOA's Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa the ONLF claims are completely false.In a telephone interview, he described the communiqués as a desperate measure used occasionally by the rebels to portray the region as being in turmoil.

"This group used to make exaggerated claims,” said Shimelis.“This is the usual lie, deliberately fabricated by this terrorist group."

Shimelis denied any government troops had been killed, and said the current fighting is between the rebels and local militia groups.

"The rebels were expelled and defeated by the local militia,” the Ethiopian government spokesman said, “The army was not involved there."

Ethiopia calls the rebels 'terrorists' backed by neighboring rival Eritrea and with ties to the Somali insurgent group al-Shabab. Eritrea and the ONLF both deny the links, and there is no independent verification of the charges.

Government troops launched a fierce offensive against the ONLF in early 2007 after the rebels attacked a Chinese owned oil exploration field in Ethiopia's Ebole district, killing 74 people.The ONLF accused the troops of conducting a 'scorched earth' campaign, a claim that was strongly denied by the government.

The United Nations twice requested access to the region to conduct independent human rights assessments. Ethiopia refused the requests.

Government spokesman Shimelis said that 2007 offensive effectively ended the ONLF's military capability. "Since the Ebole incident, the ONLF bandit group is on the run,” he said. “Recently however, they have tried to raid some administrations in the localities, and that attempt had been effectively defeated by the local militia."

Ethiopia has recently attempted to assure oil companies the ONLF no longer has the ability to threaten exploration and production in the Ogaden region. But Ethiopia's mines and energy minister was quoted this week as saying no petroleum reserves had been found in the country despite years of search.

The ONLF has been fighting for greater autonomy or independence for the Ogaden since Ethiopia seized the mostly Somali speaking region in a war with Somalia more than 30 years ago.



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