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US Afghan war commander submits troop request

THE Pentagon's top military officer flew to Europe to talk to the commander in the Afghanistan war about how many troops he needs to turn around the faltering campaign.

President Barack Obama would not say whether he thinks the war requires more troops and said he is in the midst of a review of whether the United States is pursuing the right strategy now to defeat al-Qaida.

"I will ultimately make the decision that will meet that core goal I set out at the beginning," Obama said at a news conference in Pittsburgh.

Two defense officials say the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, met Gen. Stanley McChrystal for a half day of talks yesterday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The U.S. commanders for NATO and the Middle East region also attended. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.

The officials would not confirm what others have said privately for weeks about suggested troop levels: McChrystal wants some 40,000 more troops.

The officials say Mullen wanted a face-to-face talk with McChrystal to understand better what he wants and why he wants it.

Not present at yesterday's meeting were Defense Secretary Robert Gates or other civilian Afghanistan policy chiefs, who attended an emergency strategy session on Afghanistan during the summer.

Gates has not said whether he endorses additional troops for the war, as Mullen did this month.

The war is losing public support, and Democrats in Congress have told Obama they do not want to send more forces.

"I understand the public's weariness of this war, given that it comes on top of weariness about the war in Iraq," Obama said yesterday.

"This is not easy, and I would expect that the public would ask some very tough questions."


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