Obama Considering Reduction in US Combat Role in Afghanistan
The Obama administration is considering an early shift in the US military role in Afghanistan from primarily combat to mainly advisory and training duties, well ahead of current plans.
Officials said various options were under consideration, but the US president is gearing up for a re-election campaign in which he is expected to emphasis his ending of the Iraq war this year and his efforts to wind down combat in Afghanistan by 2014.
If he goes ahead with the plan, he will face accusations of putting politics above the war.
But the war has grown increasingly unpopular at home and even some normally hawkish Republicans have expressed doubts about continuing the conflict at current levels of manpower and effort.
Though Pentagon chiefs are against relying more on Afghan forces, there are some in the military who think that the US tends to over-protect their local partners.
Mr Obama has sent an additional 60,000 US troops in a bid to change the course of the war by adopting a counter-insurgency strategy. Much of the south has been regained from the Taliban.
The long term prospects of holding onto territory are not regarded as good, partly because Washington has yet to create even the beginnings of a political settlement of the war.
The US and its Nato partners agreed last year in Lisbon to complete their combat mission by the end of 2014, with the understanding that advising and training Afghan forces would gradually become a more dominant part of the mission.