WASHINGTON, Feb 2: US President Barack Obama on Monday ordered three more brigade combat teams for Afghanistan.

The decision was announced after a meeting of America’s three most powerful men — President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Defence Secretary Robert Gates — met at the White House earlier on Monday.

The three reviewed a new strategy for dealing with the insurgency in Afghanistan and Fata.

US officials, while talking to the media, have indicated that the new policy would also focus on Pakistan and not merely as an adjunct to the Afghan war.

The Obama administration fears that a descent into chaos by nuclear-armed Pakistan would be even worse for US secu-

rity than a collapse in Afghanistan.

Two of the three brigade combat teams that Mr Obama ordered to Afghanistan may deploy early spring and one later next year, as early as the end of summer.

A brigade combat team, known by its initial BCT, is a self-contained fighting unit three to four thousand strong.

But officials noted that President Obama had left open the option of sending more troops. The United States currently has 34,000 troops in Afghanistan, as part of a 70,000-strong International Security Assistance Force.

Gen. David D. McKiernan, who commands both ISAF and US forces in Afghanistan, has said he may need 20,000 more troops to bring security to Afghanistan.

The Afghan National Army is nearing 80,000 troops, and the Afghan National Police has almost 82,000 officers.

The army is expected to grow to 134,000 by 2014, while the police force has reached its intended cap.

The increase in US forces is part of Mr Obama’s plan to pull combat troops out of Iraq and focus on the growing threat from a resurgent Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

While defending the troop surge, Secretary Gates told a Senate panel recently: “There is little doubt that our greatest military challenge right now is Afghanistan.”

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