President Obama meets with his Afghan war council Friday to discuss not only strategy, but the mission itself in Afghanistan—and how many troops are needed to accomplish it. As the council has been preparing to debate the request of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, top commander in Kabul, for more troops in the war zone, several potentially major problems have materialized: The American military currently does not have nearly enough helicopters to move troops around Afghanistan, according to Army officers, and a recent study showed the military could have trouble pulling enough troops from other bases to deploy the 40,000 troops McChrystal wants. The Obama administration appears to be preparing to narrow the Afghan mission to one of only preventing al Qaeda's reestablishment there, instead of stopping the Taliban or another Islamist group from gaining ground. That’s in part due to an emerging belief among officials involved in the deliberations is that destroying the Taliban is not necessary to countering the threat from al Qaeda, because many Taliban members are more interested in the local politics and than supporting the terror group. Refocusing the mission could make it politically easier for Obama to grant McChrystal fewer troops—or reject the request completely.
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