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Obama Afghanistan strategy. Obama Plans More Funding For Afghan War "President Obama's new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy will require significantly higher levels of U.S. funding for both countries, with U.S. military expenses in Afghanistan alone, currently about $2 billion a month, increasing by about 60 percent this year." In New Afghan Strategy, Obama Will Add Troops "President Obama plans to further bolster American forces in Afghanistan and for the first time set benchmarks for progress in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban there and in Pakistan," Obama shifts strategy in Afghanistan: more troops, modest goals "Shifting U.S. objectives in Afghanistan away from the Bush administration's promise to build a Western-style democracy, President Barack Obama will announce on Friday that he's deploying thousands of additional American troops and civilians to achieve more modest goals, such as enhancing security and promoting economic development," US to expand force in Afghanistan "Barack Obama is expected to send an additional 4,000 troops to train Afghan forces as part of review of policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan to be announced by the US president on Friday." British Army set for Afghanistan surge "The head of the Army is ready to send up to 2,000 extra troops to Afghanistan amid fears that the US-led mission will struggle without significant reinforcements."

Afghanistan - on the ground. Taliban leader looks to reclaim Afghanistan, U.S. says "Afghanistan's former Taliban leader is pursuing a determined effort to reclaim power, U.S. officials said Thursday, a bid they plan to thwart by isolating the most militant insurgents, intensifying training of police and military, and reaching out to people at all levels of Afghan society." Pakistani and Afghan Taliban Unify in Face of U.S. Influx "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." First Afghan community policing force finishes training as 18 militants die in clashes "The first group of Afghans have completed training for a U.S.-backed community policing force that some warn will arm local militias, but the government has touted as vital to confronting an increasingly virulent insurgency."

Budget. Democrats Agree on Budget's Outline "Congressional Democrats have advanced a streamlined version of President Obama's first budget request, as committees in both chambers endorsed a $3.5 trillion spending plan that clears the way for lawmakers to pursue the president's most ambitious and costly initiatives." Key Senate panel backs Obama's budget blueprint, setting stage for debate next week "A key Senate panel stacked with allies of President Barack Obama approved his ambitious budget blueprint Thursday, giving the president a symbolic endorsement of efforts to boost clean energy, fight global warming and improve access to health care." Campaign for Obama's budget is widening "A campaign to persuade Republicans to support President Obama's budget is morphing into something broader, with the White House political machine and its allies now focusing pressure on conservative Democrats and anyone else who might be tempted to vote no." Obama pushes agenda in Web forum "Bringing a high-tech twist to the familiar forum of the town hall meeting, President Barack Obama on Thursday hosted a "virtual" town hall in the East Room of the White House, answering questions from attendees and from participants online."

Immigration. A risky new push for immigration legislation "With their prospects in Congress sinking along with the economy, liberal advocates of giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship are launching a risky strategy to push lawmakers and the White House to take up their cause."

National service. Senate Moves to Expand National Service Programs "The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Thursday to broadly expand national community service programs, increasing the number of positions to 250,000 from 75,000 and creating new cadres of volunteers focused on education, clean energy, health care and veterans."

Death penalty. House vote limits capital punishment "Dramatic constraints on Maryland's death penalty given final approval by lawmakers Thursday will make the state the most restrictive of the 35 states that allow capital punishment, but the controversial law still falls short of the full repeal Gov. Martin O'Malley has been advocating for more than two years."

Sudan airstrikes. Israel suspected in Sudan airstrikes "A Sudanese official said Thursday that hundreds of people were killed early this year when foreign warplanes bombed three convoys smuggling African migrants through Sudan along with weapons that apparently were destined for the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip." U.S. Officials Say Israel Struck in Sudan "Israeli warplanes bombed a convoy of trucks in Sudan in January that was believed to be carrying arms to be smuggled into Gaza, according to American officials." Sudan strike targeted weapons believed capable of hitting Tel Aviv "The air strike reportedly hit a convoy of Iranian arms passing through Sudan en route to the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials declined to confirm or deny Israel's involvement in the air strike in Sudan."

North Korea. Japan ready to shoot down North Korean rocket "Japan gave its military the green light to shoot down any incoming North Korean rocket on Friday, with tensions high ahead of a planned launch that the United States and allies say will be an illegal missile test." North Korean Nuclear Test A Growing Possibility "North Korea moved a long-range missile to a launchpad this week and plans to send it into space in early April in defiance of repeated international warnings." U.S. official challenges North Korea's satellite claim "North Korea's threatened missile launch is intended to demonstrate its ability to carry out an intercontinental military strike, a top U.S. official said Thursday, brushing aside the country's claims that it is merely sending a satellite into space."

Opinion. Presidential honeymoon is so last century (Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune) "Will an anxious public and heat-seeking pundits give President Barack Obama enough elbowroom to do his job? As he tries to free up financial markets and turn our sputtering economy around, nervous Nellies on the right and left are yelping like children in the back seat: "Are we there yet? Are we there yet . . . ?" Nagging doesn't get us there any faster, kids." Obama Speeches Gain From Teleprompter (Michael Gerson, Washington Post) "During a wobbly first two months, Obama has had many problems. But using an autocue isn't one of them. A teleprompter speech represents the elevation of writing in politics. And good writing has an authenticity of its own."

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