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Debate Grows Over Afghan Strategy

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Were talking this morning about a couple of related factors in the war in Afghanistan. One is troops and the other is money, in particular the money spent or misspent by Afghanistans government. President Obama is considering a shift in strategy, even as U.S. officials question corruption in the government that the U.S. is supporting.

We start with NPRs Mary Louise Kelly.

MARY LOUISE KELLY: When President Obama sat down with his national security team for their latest strategy session yesterday, there were said to be four final options on the table. But by the time the meeting broke up, they didnt sound so final. All the existing plans involve sending more U.S. forces to Afghanistan. They each embrace different number of troops and different goals for what the U.S. is trying to achieve. At the high end, there is the 40,000 or so troops that the top commander, General Stanley McChrystal, says he needs to pull off a successful counterinsurgency. At the low end, an option of 10,000 extra troops, mostly working as trainers for the Afghan Army and police force.

And a couple of middle options. One would focus on a narrower counterterrorism mission; the other, said to be endorsed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, backs sending 34,000 or so extra U.S. troops while calling on NATO to contribute several thousand more. But heres the twist: President Obama is not likely to accept any of these options in their current form.

Thats according to two administration officials who tell NPR that at yesterdays meeting the president pushed his team for more detail about an exit strategy for U.S. forces, and they say he wants to make clear to the Afghan government that the U.S. commitment is not open-ended. The president's questions come as his ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, is reported to be raising concerns about the wisdom of sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

Eikenberry is a retired army lieutenant general and former U.S. commander in Afghanistan. He is said to be unconvinced that Afghan President Hamid Karzai will prove a reliable partner.

Mary Louise Kelly, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
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