WASHINGTON Six months after it announced its strategy for Afghanistan, the Obama administration is sending mixed signals about its objectives there and how many troops are needed to achieve them.
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The conflicting messages are drawing increasing ire from U.S. commanders in Afghanistan and frustrating military leaders, who're trying to figure out how to demonstrate that they're making progress in the 12-18 months that the administration has given them.
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Adding to the frustration, according to officials in Kabul and Washington, are White House and Pentagon directives made over the last six weeks that Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, not submit his request for as many as 45,000 additional troops because the administration isn't ready for it.
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In the last two weeks, top administration leaders have suggested that more American troops will be sent to Afghanistan, and then called that suggestion "premature." Earlier this month, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that "time is not on our side"; on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged the public "to take a deep breath."
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The White House didn't respond to requests for comment. Officials willing to speak did so only on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.
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In Kabul, some members of McChrystal's staff said they don't understand why Obama called Afghanistan a "war of necessity" but still hasn't given them the resources they need to turn things around quickly.
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Three officers at the Pentagon and in Kabul told McClatchy that the McChrystal they know would resign before he'd stand behind a faltering policy that he thought would endanger his forces or the strategy.


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