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Afghanistan: more troops or missile strikes? Both, actually.

The White House debate over a troop-heavy counterinsurgency versus more targeted strikes against Al Qaeda is a false choice, some experts say. One is needed to complement the other.

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US and foreign officials have reported recent success in counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond based on better intelligence. Such operations are bolstering arguments that a smaller American force with a narrower mission could be the answer for Afghanistan.

But experts say that the intelligence on Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other enemy fighters is gathered as a very result of the fact that the US and its allies have so many troops there.

"If you're not physically on the ground, people aren't going to talk to you," says Scott Stewart, vice president for tactical intelligence at STRATFOR, a global intelligence firm. Mr. Stewart says that the US and its allies are benefiting from the intelligence network they have built over the past eight years.

In recent weeks, the US can point to a number of successful attacks on wanted militants, from Afghanistan to Somalia and Pakistan, including a strike on Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistan Taliban, killed by a US air strike in August.


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