Review to decide pace of US pullout from Afghanistan

The approximately 70-page classified review is being prepared to assess progress one year after Obama announced he was adding 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan. At that time Obama said that by July 2011 the US will begin pulling some troops out depending on the conditions.

The review set to be completed in mid-December was not meant to rewrite strategy, rather it is to assess whether the current strategy is on the right path, a senior administration official told media Tuesday in a conference call.

Before that review is completed in mid-December, the US will participate in a NATO conference on the war. A major focus of those meetings, which begin next week in Lisbon, Portugal, will be determining how the United States and other countries will establish an "enduring" commitment to Afghanistan so that, while the country "increasingly stands up, she doesn't have to stand alone" after territory is transitioned, the official said.

The United States expects Afghanistan security forces to take the lead in conducting security operations throughout the country by 2014. The "quite comprehensive" review will focus on eight objectives covering progress in counter-terrorism, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the official said.

The report will help the president decide on the level of transition to the Afghanistan government, but the official said it will not be the "defining" answer since there will still be a half-year of events that could affect the decision on what happens starting in July 2011.

While the official said the Afghan government's efforts to talk with insurgents has not progressed yet beyond "talks with talks," the fact those are progressing at all is an indication to the United States that the Taliban "may" be under pressure, the official said. The review will try to consider where that pressure is being exerted by the NATO forces and how it can be sustained and increased.

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