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US Vice President to Head to Munich for Security Conference

US Vice President Biden is to address a security conference in Munich next week in his first official trip abroad in his new job as President Obama pushes to build support for an expanded role in Afghanistan.

US Vice President Joe Biden with President Barack Obama

Biden's Munich appearance will represent Obama's foreign policy on the world stage for the first time

Joe Biden will be joined by President Barack Obama's national security adviser, James Jones, at the annual gathering of government leaders, military officials and foreign and defense policy experts to discuss trans-Atlantic security issues, the White House said on Tuesday.

A former veteran Democratic lawmaker and past chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden will represent Obama's foreign policy on the world stage for the first time since the president's historic inauguration last week.

This year's Munich security conference is expected to focus on the future of NATO, European security organizations and non-proliferation. But news agency AP reported that Biden is widely expected to use the meeting to push America's European allies to expand their role in Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan is US' biggest military challenge"

Biden's visit comes as the new US administration signals that it wants to break with the Bush era and reverse many of the foreign policies of the previous administration.

German soldiers in Kabul

NATO troops in Afghanistan are facing mounting attacks

Obama has pledged to make Afghanistan a cornerstone of his security policy, beefing up the US troop presence there while reducing US forces in Iraq.

Earlier this week, Obama discussed Afghanistan by phone on Monday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

On Tuesday, US Defense Minister Robert Gates described Afghanistan as America's greatest military challenge and warned the war could be lost if the West failed to address the problem of civilian casualties.

"There is little doubt that our greatest military challenge right now is Afghanistan," Gates said. "President (Barack) Obama has made it clear that the Afghanistan theater should be our top overseas military priority."

Sarkozy, Merkel and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are expected to take part in the 45th Munich Conference on Security Policy on Feb 7-8, organizers said on the Web site.

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