posted at 21:50
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Obama extends US combat role in Afghanistan: report
The NATO follow up mission, to take over on January 1 with 9,800 US troops and about 3,000 soldiers from Germany, Italy and other member nations, was to focus on supporting Afghan forces as they take on the Taliban, in parallel with US counter-terrorism operations. In a strategic shift, the New York Times said, Obama signed an order authorizing US troops through 2015 to carry out missions against militant groups, including the Taliban, that threaten them or the Afghan government. The newspaper said civilian advisors argued against the broader mission for 2015, objecting to putting American lives in danger in the fight against the Taliban and recommending a narrower, counter-terrorism focus against Al-Qaeda. A senior official told the Times that US forces next year would not carry out regular patrols against the Taliban. "We will no longer target belligerents solely because they are members of the Taliban," the official said. "To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to Al Qaeda we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe." The new head of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, and other senior officers were reviewing whether a larger force needs to stay in place longer than initially planned, officials said. At its peak, the US force rose to more than 100,000 in Afghanistan, and there are now 27,000 troops deployed.

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