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U.S. Commander Offers Troop Options For Afghanistan

U.S. troops patrol during a mission in Logar Province, Afghanistan on August 14.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan planned to offer options for policymakers to try to stem Taliban gains, including sending up to 30,000-40,000 additional combat troops and trainers, according to defense and Congressional officials.

General Stanley McChrystal hand-delivered his long-awaited request for more troops to U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Admiral James Stavridis, on September 25.

But the White House has said it wants to review the entire strategy for the war before considering McChrystal's request.

Pentagon officials said the contents of the request were confidential. But they described the document as analytical, containing not only the commander's recommendations but also troop level options and an assessment of the risks associated with each option.

Speaking on ABC's "This Week" on September 27, Senator John McCain, who was the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, urged President Barack Obama to choose the option of sending 30,000-40,000 troops, a range administration and congressional officials said was at the top end of McChrystal's request.

Officials said McChrystal also looked at smaller troop commitments, giving Obama some alternatives to choose from.

The troops sought by McChrystal would be part of an overhaul of U.S. tactics with an emphasis on securing civilians in population centers to loosen the grip of a strengthening Taliban-led insurgency.

In a bleak war assessment prepared last month, McChrystal wrote that his mission would likely fail if he is not given reinforcements for his force, now more than 100,000 strong including about 63,000 Americans.

Defense officials said several White House meetings on strategy were scheduled for next week.

The war has intensified in recent months. A United Nations report released on September 26 said 1,500 civilians had died so far this year, with August the deadliest month and August 20 -- Afghanistan's election day -- seeing the largest number of attacks since 2001.

August and July have also been the deadliest months of the war for Western troops, who launched major advances.

Obama, who has already ordered 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan this year, has described himself as a "skeptical audience" of the case for sending more, and says he wants to be sure the strategy is correct first.

Republican critics have reacted sharply to the delay, accusing him of dithering.