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The Pentagon has begun planning to use US troops to train Pakistani armed forces to fight antigovernment extremists, a senior American defense official said Wednesday. The plan, which seeks to keep the US in a low-profile, supportive role, awaits approval from Pakistan.

A Virginia legislative panel referred a gun-control bill supported by families of the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre to further study, a decision frustrating to supporters but hailed as a victory Wednesday by gun-rights advocates. The proposal, which would require private sellers to obtain criminal background checks on buyers at gun shows, is not likely to come up for a vote during this year's legislative session.

To sustain lower levels of sectarian violence and greater stability recently achieved in Iraq, the US may have to maintain a large troop presence in the Gulf region for years to come, experts with the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations told Congress Wednesday. Even then, the analysts said, Iraq was more likely to resemble volatile Kosovo and Bosnia than model modern-day democracies.

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