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Good News, Bad News On Afghanistan Front

The good news is, Obama is asking for more troops in Afghanistan - but tying them to specific benchmarks: The new strategy, which Mr. Obama will f

The good news is, Obama is asking for more troops in Afghanistan - but tying them to specific benchmarks:

The new strategy, which Mr. Obama will formally announce Friday, will send 4,000 more troops to train Afghan security forces on top of the 17,000 extra combat troops that he already ordered to Afghanistan shortly after taking office, administration and Congressional officials said. But for now, Mr. Obama has decided not to send additional combat forces, they said, although military commanders at one point had requested a total of 30,000 more American troops.

Although the administration is still developing the specific benchmarks for Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said they would be the most explicit demands ever presented to the governments in Kabul and Islamabad. In effect, Mr. Obama would be insisting that two fractured countries plagued by ancient tribal rivalries and modern geopolitical hostility find ways to work together and transform their societies.

The bad news is, Taliban fighters in Pakistan have agreed to work with the Afghan Taliban to go on the offensive against them:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — After agreeing to bury their differences and unite forces, Taliban leaders based in Pakistan have closed ranks with their Afghan comrades to ready a new offensive in Afghanistan as the United States prepares to send 17,000 more troops there this year.

In interviews, several Taliban fighters based in the border region said preparations for the anticipated influx of American troops were already being made. A number of new, younger commanders have been preparing to step up a campaign of roadside bombings and suicide attacks to greet the Americans, the fighters said.

The refortified alliance was forged after the reclusive Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, sent emissaries to persuade Pakistani Taliban leaders to join forces and turn their attention to Afghanistan, Pakistani officials and Taliban members said.

The overture by Mullah Omar is an indication that with the prospect of an American buildup, the Taliban feel the need to strengthen their own forces in Afghanistan and to redirect their Pakistani allies toward blunting the new American push.

The Pakistani Taliban, an offspring of the Afghan Taliban, are led by veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan who come from the border regions. They have always supported the fight against foreign forces in Afghanistan by supplying fighters, training and logistical aid.

But in recent years the Pakistani Taliban have concentrated on battling the Pakistani government, extending a domain that has not only threatened Pakistan but has also provided an essential rear base for the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

At the same time, American officials told The New York Times this week that Pakistan’s military intelligence agency continued to offer money, supplies and guidance to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan as a proxy to help shape a friendly government there once American forces leave.

The new Taliban alliance has raised concern in Afghanistan, where NATO generals warn that the conflict will worsen this year. It has also generated anxiety in Pakistan, where officials fear that a united Taliban will be more dangerous, even if focused on Afghanistan, and draw more attacks inside Pakistan from United States drone aircraft.

“This may bring some respite for us from militants’ attacks, but what it may entail in terms of national security could be far more serious,” said one senior Pakistani official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to talk to news organizations. “This would mean more attacks inside our tribal areas, something we have been arguing against with the Americans.”

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