Obama Reassures Singh On U.S.-India Ties

As a sign of India's rising stature, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was treated to the first state visit of Obama's presidency. The two leaders pledged to strengthen their economic ties, and Obama reiterated the importance of the U.S. relationship with India.

Obama tried to assuage growing concerns by many in India that the relationship between these two nations is being eclipsed by a greater U.S. outreach to China, India's neighbor.

That was the broad message of all of the White House events Tuesday.

"It will be another opportunity to convey to the prime minister and the people of India, as India assumes its rightful place as a global leader in this century, that you will have no better friend and partner than the United States of America," Obama said.

"I was deeply impressed by President Obama's strong commitment to the India-U.S. strategic partnership and by the breadth of his vision for global peace and prosperity," Singh said.

But during a brief news conference, Obama was asked to address the international issue that has dominated White House discussions this fall: Afghanistan.

Sources have told NPR that Obama will announce troop levels and a new Afghanistan strategy this Tuesday. He declined to confirm that — saying he'll reveal his plan "shortly."

Obama also returned to a message that was so much a part of the 2008 presidential campaign — that for too long the Afghanistan mission was not given enough attention by the previous administration as Iraq took precedence.

"After eight years — some of those years in which we did not have, I think, either the resources or the strategy to get the job done — it is my intention to finish the job," Obama said.

But a weak Afghan government, the country's mountainous terrain and the tenacity of the insurgents all add up to a very difficult task, no matter what the strategy.

A poll published Wednesday by USA Today shows support for Obama on Afghanistan plummeting. Three months ago, 56 percent approved of his handling of the issue. Now 55 percent disapprove.

The president is considering a big troop buildup. Gen. Stanley McChrystal wants some 40,000 more troops to battle the insurgent forces there.

McClatchy News Service reported Tuesday that Obama has decided to send 34,000, hoping European allies will make up the difference.

But any big buildup is likely to displease much of the American public as the war enters its ninth year, with casualties rising.

Obama predicts that the public will give him a fair hearing when he presents his case: "I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there, and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive."

The president has the Thanksgiving weekend to finalize his strategy for Afghanistan, and his plan for selling that strategy both at home and abroad.

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