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Afghan President Appeals for Support in Southern Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has appealed to hundreds of tribal and religious leaders in Kandahar to support a major military operation in their southern province to bolster security in the Taliban stronghold.

The president's request Sunday for the leaders' help was largely well received. Most of the audience stood and raised their hands when President Karzai asked for their support in ending nearly nine years of war.

Mr. Karzai was seeking to alleviate any misgivings the local leaders might have about the troop build-up in Kandahar, the center of the Taliban insurgency.

The Afghan president was accompanied by NATO commander U.S. General Stanley McChrystal. He was quoted by the Associated Press after the meeting as expressing pleasure that Mr. Karzai made such a "strong, clear call" for unity.

Violence has spiked in southern Afghanistan as Taliban militants step up attacks ahead of the military operation.

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan this year to defeat the growing Taliban insurgency. He has vowed to begin withdrawing them beginning in mid-July 2011.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.