Page last updated at 06:46 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 07:46 UK

Obama 'rules out' Afghan cutbacks

Nancy Pelosi and John McCain, 6 Oct 2009
Both Democrats and Republicans were invited to the White House

US President Barack Obama has said his review of Afghan strategy will not look at pulling out or cutting troop levels.

Mr Obama told key members of Congress that he would decide on a course of action with a sense of urgency - but that not everyone would be pleased.

But a source said he did not pledge to increase troop numbers as his top general in Afghanistan wants.

The meeting came on the eve of the eighth anniversary of the start of the US-led Afghan military operation.

It was launched to oust the Taliban from Afghanistan following the 11 September attacks on the US.

'Rigorous and deliberate'

About 30 senior congressional figures - Democrats and Republicans - had been invited to the meeting with the US leader.

Mark Mardell
Mark Mardell, BBC News, Washington

President Obama is narrowing his options in Afghanistan, probably in reaction to media speculation.

He told a meeting of his most senior security advisers last week that pulling out was not an option: it wasn't on the table.

Now he has used his meeting with senior politicians of both parties on the Hill to make it clear he's not going to slash troop numbers or narrow the goals to only targeting the top terrorists.

Divisions are emerging between some Democrats concerned by the prospect of deploying more US forces to Afghanistan and some Republicans urging the Obama administration to follow the advice of top generals and increase troop levels.

President Obama told the group that his assessment would be "rigorous and deliberate" and that he would continue to work with Congress in the best interests of US and international security.

According to one White House source, he told the meeting that he would not shrink the number of troops in Afghanistan or opt for a strategy of merely targeting al-Qaeda leaders.

But he would not be drawn on sending additional troops - which his top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, requested last week.

Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that there had been some agreement but also some "diversity of opinion" during the talks.

Former Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain urged Mr Obama to take heed of the advice given by generals on the ground.

A US official, quoted by Reuters news agency, said of the meeting: "He... made it clear that his decision won't make everybody in the room or the nation happy, but underscored his commitment to work on a collaborative basis."

Afghan strategy

The BBC's Mark Mardell, in Washington, says there appears to be a frustration that the review of strategy has some times been portrayed in black and white terms of a massive increase or reduction of troop numbers.

We seem to be locked into a situation that may turn out to be a humiliating defeat
Peter Lee, Morecambe

Dr Anthony Cordesman, an adviser to General McChrystal, told the BBC the decision was much more complex than was being portrayed.

"It is a very big decision and it involves a great deal more than simply troop levels.

"There's a decision as to what strategy to pursue, how committed to stay in Afghanistan, how to deal with Nato and Isaf [International Assistance Security Force] allies, how to reshape the aid programme - and how to deal with the future of the Afghan government.

"So this is much more than simply a military strategy decision."


By the end of 2009 there will be a total of 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan, based on current deployment plans.

US President Barack Obama

President Obama has said the strategy in Afghanistan must be agreed before a decision can be made on troop numbers.

Gen McChrystal had described the situation in Afghanistan as "serious" and is believed to have requested up to 40,000 additional troops.

He is believed to want the focus of the strategy to fall on protecting the Afghan people and carrying the fight to the Taliban.

Future US strategy will be discussed in a series of Obama administration meetings this week.

On Wednesday President Obama is holding his third of five meetings with his National Security Council, as well as field commanders and regional ambassadors.


Isaf's major combat teams in Afghanistan

Major combat units

Isaf's provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan

Reconstruction teams

Over 40 countries contribute forces to the international mission in Afghanistan. Full details on the Isaf website.

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