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Obama turns his attention to Pakistan

October 08, 2009|Christi Parsons

WASHINGTON — President Obama shifted his focus to Pakistan on Wednesday as his advisors dug more deeply into their reassessment of U.S. strategy for neighboring Afghanistan and approached the question of whether to further increase troop strength there.

Eight years to the day after the Afghanistan war began, the president was reviewing a recommendation from his commander there, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, that suggests a range of troop increases depending on the strategy chosen. White House officials say Obama is weeks away from a decision.

In Kabul, the Afghan capital, a large explosion took place near the Indian Embassy this morning. Early unconfirmed reports suggested as many as seven people died in an apparent suicide car bombing. Indian news reports said the blast did not breach a large concrete security perimeter.

In a meeting Tuesday with members of Congress, Obama made it clear that he is not entertaining the idea of withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan or dramatically reducing their numbers, nor does he want to narrow the scope of the effort to ferreting out Al Qaeda and its allies.

McChrystal has presented Obama with reports evaluating strategy and parsing the various merits of troop increases before ultimately asking for a particular number -- reportedly an additional 40,000.

Wednesday's three-hour session was devoted to Pakistan, where Al Qaeda's leadership is believed to be hiding. An administration official said the president remains focused on the goal of "disrupting, dismantling and defeating" Al Qaeda, but also noted that Obama is looking for ways to "improve cooperation."

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cparsons@latimes.com

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