"The White House is considering expanding counterterror operations in Pakistan to refocus on eliminating Al Qaeda instead of mounting a major military escalation in Afghanistan.
Two senior administration officials said Monday that the renewed fight against the terrorist organization could lead to more missile attacks on Pakistan terrorist havens by unmanned U.S. spy planes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because no decisions have been made.
Top aides to President Barack Obama said he still has questions and wants more time to decide.
The officials said the administration would push ahead with the ground mission in Afghanistan in the near future to leave the door open for sending more U.S. troops. But Obama's top advisers, including Vice President Joe Biden, have indicated they are reluctant to send many more troops, if any at all, in the immediate future.
In weekend interviews, Obama emphasized that disrupting Al Qaeda is his "core goal" and worried aloud about "mission creep" that would move away from that direction. "If it starts drifting away from that goal, then we may have a problem," he said.
The proposed shift would bolster U.S. action on Obama's long-stated goal of dismantling terrorist havens, but it also could complicate American relations with Pakistan, long wary of the growing use of aerial drones to target militants along the porous border with Afghanistan.
The prospect of a White House alternative to a deepening involvement in the stalemated war in Afghanistan comes as administration officials debate whether to send more troops, as urged in a blunt assessment of the deteriorating conflict by the top U.S. commander there, Gen. Stanley McChrystal."
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