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Obama to Announce New Afghanistan Strategy

U.S. President Barack Obama has decided on a new Afghan strategy that includes a greater emphasis on regional diplomacy, and an increase in American military and civilian personnel. The president will unveil his plan later on Friday.

U.S. officials say the strategic goal is simple: to disrupt, dismantle and destroy al-Qaida and its allies, remove their safe havens in Pakistan, and prevent them from regrouping in Afghanistan.

They say the president's new approach is regional in scope and includes three elements: military action, diplomacy, and support for development.

These officials - who briefed reporters on the condition they would not be identified - say the United States, will send an extra 4,000 troops to Afghanistan to help train the Afghan armed forces.

That would be on top of the 17,000 additional combat and support troops President Obama wants deployed in Afghanistan over the coming months. By October, the overall force level - including trainers - should reach 59,000

Along with the military trainers, the United States will also be sending hundreds more American civilians with special expertise in areas ranging from farming to legal systems.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - speaking at a news conference in Monterrey, Mexico- said the civilian component is essential.

"We are convinced that that is the most critical underpinning of any success we hope to achieve along with the people and government of Afghanistan," Clinton said.

Clinton will be discussing the Afghan situation in the coming days with roughly 70 of her counterparts from around the world at a series of conferences and summits.

Meanwhile, veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke will be stepping up his efforts as a special envoy to Southwest Asia, and will be meeting with leaders there on a regular basis.

Officials say this will be a true regional diplomacy with the United States reaching out to every country with a stake in the region, including Iran.

They say for the first time, U.S. diplomacy will be based on the premise that Afghanistan and Pakistan are intertwined. As one official put it, " they are two countries, but one challenge."

A particular focus of the new strategy is the area around the Pakistan-Afghanistan border - a lawless region of rough terrain where many analysts believe al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden remains in hiding.

The United States has been urging Pakistan to take greater action against militants in the border region for some time. The Obama administration is now offering to triple humanitarian assistance to Pakistan. But administration officials make clear Washington will want assurances that Islamabad is taking necessary steps against extremists.

This new strategy is the result of a formal 60-day policy review that involved analysts from both inside and outside government. There were considerable consultations with foreign leaders, including those who will take part in next week's NATO summit on the French-German border where President Obama is expected to ask for greater support for the effort to secure Afghanistan and counter the threat from militants in the region.