September 16, 2009 / 5:24 PM / 10 years ago

Obama sets Afghanistan, Pakistan objectives-document

By Susan Cornwell and Adam Entous

WASHINGTON, Sept 16 (Reuters) - The Obama administration has set objectives for countering al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, from boosting Islamabad’s counterinsurgency capabilities to building up Afghan security forces so U.S. assistance can be reduced, according to an internal document obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

The administration sent the objectives to U.S. lawmakers ahead of an expected request by Army General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, for additional forces to counter a resurgent Taliban insurgency.

A key Republican senator said tens of thousands of more troops may be needed but such a request could face opposition from Democrats.

President Barack Obama, after meeting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the White House, made clear a decision on sending more troops would take time, telling reporters: "There is no immediate decision pending."

"You have to get the strategy right and then make the determination about resources," Obama said.

The Obama administration set out its objectives against al Qaeda in a draft documented titled "Evaluating Progress in Afghanistan-Pakistan," a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

The No. 1 objective calls for disrupting "terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan to degrade any ability they have to plan and launch international terrorist attacks."

For Pakistan, the document said the Obama administration’s goal was to limit the military’s involvement in the civilian government, to develop Islamabad’s counterinsurgency capabilities and to have the government take "demonstrable action" against corruption.

It also called for more international support for Pakistan from powerbrokers China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

For Afghanistan, the Obama administration document called for developing "increasingly self-reliant Afghan security forces that can lead the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism fight with reduced U.S. assistance."

Senator John McCain, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said he thought tens of thousands more U.S. troops were needed in Afghanistan, along the lines of what took place in the Iraq surge, but would rely on McChrystal’s recommendations.

"The surge can be replicated, and the strategy replicated, adopted to the different circumstances in Afghanistan," he told Reuters.

Leading Democrats in Congress want Afghan security forces to expand before any more U.S. troops are sent into combat. (Additional reporting by Caren Bohan, Writing by Adam Entous, Editing Eric Beech)

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