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White House: Leaving Afghanistan Not An Option

by Ben Feller

WASHINGTON - The White House said Monday that President Barack Obama is not considering a strategy for Afghanistan that would withdraw U.S. troops from the eroding war there.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that walking away isn't a viable option to deal with a war that is about to enter its ninth year.

"I don't think we have the option to leave. That's quite clear," Gibbs said.

The debate over whether to send as many as 40,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan is a major element of a strategy overhaul that senior administration policy advisers will consider this week as they gather for top-level meetings on the evolving direction of the war.

Obama has invited a bipartisan group of congressional leaders to the White House on Tuesday to confer about the war. He said the administration would brief leaders from both parties and key committee chairmen and would seek their opinions.

"They're an important part of this and the president wants to hear from them," Gibbs said.

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