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Strategy session: Obama meets with national security team on Afghanistan, Pakistan

DefenseUnrest, Conflicts and WarHeads of StateBarack ObamaNational SecurityAfghanistanHamid Karzai

President Obama and his senior national security advisors convened Monday to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan, as the administration wrestles with questions about strategy in the region and what role American troops should play there.

The president's full national security team went into the White House Situation Room to discuss what progress the allies have made in fighting insurgents after a recent Pentagon report attributed successes on the battlefield to the 30,000 additional troops Obama sent to the war.

But the optimism is countered by reports from U.S. officials in the region who predict a renewed commitment to attacks by the Taliban and other insurgency groups, and by recent complaints from Afghan President Hamid Karzai about civilian deaths in airstrikes.

The calls have prompted discussion within the administration about the allies' strategy and the tools at their disposal. The Wall Street Journal reported that the National Security Council was debating whether to cut back on drone strikes, with the CIA arguing against the reduction and some in the diplomatic community weighing in favor.

Former President George W. Bush authorized aerial attacks during his administration, but they have increased dramatically under Obama.

Later this summer, the Obama team is scheduled to announce a pace for drawing down troops in Afghanistan. During a tour over the last week in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has talked about "modest drawdowns" to begin in July.

Aides to the president say Monday's talks are not focusing on withdrawal of U.S. troops. The process to arrive at that schedule hasn't yet begun, said one official, and there are no formal recommendations on the table.

cparsons@latimes.com

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