Gordon Brown is to lobby European leaders on behalf of Barack Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan.
Obama has repeatedly called on Europe to “share the burden” in the conflict and it is expected to be the central theme of his first visit after his inauguration next year.
Whitehall and diplomatic sources have revealed that Brown is to act as Obama’s agent in Europe, calling on other Nato leaders to find more soldiers and resources for the Afghan conflict.
During a telephone conversation last Thursday, Obama and Brown spoke about the growing security problems in Afghanistan, where 122 members of Britain’s armed forces have died since 2001.
A Whitehall source said: “Obama has so much political capital that it will be very hard to be the first European leader to say ‘no’ to him. However, his honeymoon may be brief so we want to help make sure he is in a position to make his move quickly.”
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Brown is expected to target France, Germany, Spain and Italy, which have all been accused of not pulling their weight. The US has about 31,000 troops in Afghanistan, while Britain’s deployment is 7,800. France has sent 1,000 troops and Italy has sent 1,700. Germany’s 3,500-strong Afghan force is barred from combat and ministers may be reluctant to increase it beyond the 4,500 already planned.
Brown is expected to raise the issue next month in Brussels at the last gathering of the European Union’s 27 national leaders before Obama takes office. His first official visit to Europe is expected to coincide with a Nato summit in Strasbourg in April.
Brown may meet Obama next weekend at a financial summit hosted by President George W Bush in Washington DC. British sources say he may “drop in on” a dinner.