Obama rules out deep cuts into U.S. force levels in Afghanistan

14:44, October 08, 2009      

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The bottom line for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is no deep cuts in troop levels, President Barack Obama told congressional leaders.

During a session with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders on Tuesday, the president also made it clear that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan would not be narrowed down to just hunting al-Qaida leaders, according to U.S. TV and wire reports Wednesday.

Analysts said, based on Obama's remarks at the meeting, that he seemed to be searching for some sort of middle ground.

The president said he wanted to "dispense with the straw man argument that this is about either doubling down or leaving Afghanistan."

While leading congressional Democrats said they would support whatever Obama decided, others challenged him about sending more troops.

Republicans pressed him to order an escalation without delay.

Washington is currently split on the future direction of the Afghan strategy.

Top military leaders and opposition Republicans are pressing Obama to act quickly to increase the present 68,000-troop level by as many as 40,000.

Meanwhile, senior White House advisors are reportedly pushing back the request for sending large number of additional troops to Afghanistan. Instead, they said, the U.S. should focus on faster military training of Afghan forces, the assassinations of al-Qaida leaders and support for the government of neighboring Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban.

As the casualty toll grows and public support for the Afghan war wanes, Obama is carrying out a major strategy review of his Afghanistan policy, which could either lead to more troops being sent or a cutback in the 68,000-strong U.S. force there.

Source: Xinhua
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