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Obama Rules Out Focusing Solely on Counterterrorism in Afghanistan

By VOA News
07 October 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama says he will not reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, or focus solely on counterterrorism.

Administration officials say President Obama made the comment to congressional leaders Tuesday, during a 90-minute White House meeting on Afghanistan. Mr. Obama meets with senior military and political advisors for a strategy session on Pakistan and Afghanistan Wednesday, eight years after the war started.

A senior administration official said the president assured the bipartisan group of lawmakers the policy review will be rigorous and deliberate, and move forward with a sense of urgency.

The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army General Stanley McChrystal, has warned the U.S. could lose the conflict if more troops are not deployed to Afghanistan. He is expected to ask for as many as 40,000 additional troops.

Mr. Obama is said to be leaning toward a more modest buildup of U.S. military forces. Republican Senator John McCain told reporters after the meeting that he worries the president will employ "half-measures" in prosecuting the war.

McCain said defeating the Taliban is essential to the goal of eliminating the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican lawmakers are urging Mr. Obama to heed the recommendations of his military commanders.

But many of Mr. Obama's fellow Democrats oppose deploying more U.S. forces. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, told reporters that many issues need to be addressed before the president decides how to proceed.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said lawmakers assured Mr. Obama they would support him, regardless of his decision.

U.S. casualties in Afghanistan have risen sharply in recent months, as forces pursue more aggressive operations against the Taliban and other militant groups.

Recent public opinion polls have shown support for the war is steadily declining. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday politics will not play a role in Mr. Obama's final decision.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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