Pentagon Delays Troop Request for Afghan War

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon has told its top commander in Afghanistan to delay submitting his request for additional troops, defense officials say, amid signs that the Obama administration is rethinking its strategy for combating a resurgent Taliban.

A senior Pentagon official says the administration has asked for the reprieve so it can complete a review of the U.S.-led war effort. "We have to make sure we have the right strategy" before looking at additional troop requests, the official said. "Things have changed on the ground fairly considerably."

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, recently completed a classified report asking for significant numbers of new American troops. Military officials familiar with the matter says the report lays out several options, including one that seeks roughly 40,000 reinforcements, which would push the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to more than 100,000 for the first time.

But the commander has been told to delay submitting the troop request to the Pentagon at the direction of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and other top civilian officials, according to defense officials.

The administration's call for a further strategic review -- which official said could take weeks -- comes as military commanders in the field say the campaign is running out of time and U.S. congressional and public support for the war is flagging.

In a new assessment of the war submitted to the Pentagon last month and made public Monday, Gen. McChrystal wrote that if the Taliban insurgency's momentum isn't reversed in the next 12 months, defeating it may no longer be possible. "Time matters; we must act now to reverse the negative trends and demonstrate progress," Gen. McChrystal wrote in a "Commander's Summary" at the start of the assessment.

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