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The Taliban has become a much more potent adversary in Afghanistan by improving its own tactics and finding gaps in the U.S. military playbook, according to senior American military officials who acknowledged that the enemy's resurgence this year has taken them by surprise.
As President Obama faces crucial decisions on his war strategy and declining public support at home, administration and defense officials are studying the reasons why the Taliban appears, for the moment at least, to be winning.
In the spring, Obama outlined a broad new direction for the war that he said his predecessor had starved of attention and resources.
But many U.S. officials and their allies feel that they are in a race against time and the determination of a battle-hardened enemy that has learned from its own mistakes and those of U.S. and NATO forces over nearly eight years of combat. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, gave Obama an assessment this week of what he described as a "serious" situation.
Reporting from Washington - U.S. officials are planning to add as many as 14,000 combat troops to the American force in Afghanistan by sending home support units and replacing them with "trigger-pullers," Defense officials say.
The move would beef up the combat force in the country without increasing the overall number of U.S. troops, a contentious issue as public support for the war slips. But many of the noncombat jobs are likely be filled by private contractors, who have proved to be a source of controversy in Iraq and a growing issue in Afghanistan