October 5, 2010 / 1:05 AM / 9 years ago

Obama says no big shift now in Afghan war strategy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama has told congressional leaders he has no plans for any major changes in his Afghanistan war strategy for now, a letter released by the White House showed on Monday.

U.S. soldiers from 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1-22 Infantry Battalion take up positions as they secure a road outside their combat outpost in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan October 4, 2010. REUTERS/Erik de Castro

Obama asserted his intention to stick with his already-revamped policy for the war, which is increasingly unpopular among lawmakers and the American public, as part of a regular assessment for Congress required for war funding.

“We are continuing to implement the policy as described in December and do not believe further adjustments are required at this time,” Obama said in a letter dated September 30 to leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives.

As the only significant recent change, he cited the appointment of General David Petraeus, credited with helping to turn around the Iraq war, as top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Obama spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a video teleconference on Monday, the White House said in a statement.

The two leaders discussed a number of topics including the Afghan parliamentary elections and long term U.S.-Afghan relations, the statement said.

“The two leaders agreed that they should continue routine engagements to refine a common vision and to align our efforts to support President Karzai’s goal of completing transition to Afghan lead security responsibility by 2014,” the White House said.

Obama last December ordered an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan but also announced they would start coming home in July 2011. The approach also calls for stepped-up training of Afghan forces to take over increasing responsibility from foreign troops.

U.S. and NATO officials are under pressure to show progress in the fight against a resurgent Taliban, particularly ahead of a comprehensive White House review set for December.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, last month played down chances for any big shift in Afghan strategy in the forthcoming review.

Obama’s letter comes less than two weeks after the release of a new book by Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward that chronicled bitter infighting within Obama’s national security team in the crafting of his Afghan strategy last year.

The White House has played down any internal rifts and says the book as a whole portrays Obama as analytical and decisive.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Joanne Allen; Editing by Paul Simao

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