President Obama is prepared to accept some Taliban involvement in Afghanistans political future and is unlikely to favour a large influx of new American troops being demanded by his ground commander, a senior official said last night. Mr Obama appears to have been swayed in recent days by arguments from some advisers, led by Vice-President Joe Biden, that the Taliban do not pose a direct threat to the US and that there should be greater focus on tackling al-Qaeda inside Pakistan. Mr Obamas developing strategy on the Taleban will not tolerate their return to power, the senior official said. However, the US would only fight to keep the Taleban from retaking control of the central government something the official said it is now far from capable of and from giving renewed sanctuary to al-Qaeda. Bowing to the reality that the fundamentalist movement is too ingrained in national culture, the Administration is prepared, as it has been for some time, to accept some Taleban role in parts of Afghanistan, the official said. That could mean paving the way for insurgents willing to renounce violence to participate in a central government, and even ceding some regions of the country to the Taleban. Mr Obama, the official said, is now inclined to send only as many more troops to Afghanistan as are needed to keep al-Qaeda at bay. Downing Street said that the US President had discussed Afghanistan with Gordon Brown yesterday during a 40-minute video conference call. Sending far fewer troops than the 40,000 being demanded by General Stanley McChrystal would mean that Mr Obama is willing to ignore the wishes of his ground commander. General McChrystal, along with the US militarys other top officials, insist that only a classic, well-resourced counter-insurgency strategy has a chance of staving off defeat in Afghanistan. Losing the war, they further argue, would provide al-Qaeda with new safe havens from which to mount attacks on the US and elsewhere. After two days of meetings in the White House Situation Room with his war Cabinet, Mr Obama, according to the official, kept returning to one central question: who is our adversary? The answer was, repeatedly, al-Qaeda, with advisers arguing that the terror network was distinct from the Taleban and that the US military was fighting the Taleban even though it posed no direct threat to America. In a sign of how politically astute the insurgents have become in deciphering the debate raging inside the White House, the Taleban issued a statement on their website yesterday declaring that they had no agenda to harm other countries. Mr Obama appears to be thinking that the primary aim of US forces in Afghanistan is to deny al-Qaeda any ability to regroup there as it did before the 9/11 attacks. Such a mission would require only a small increase in the forces deployed in Afghanistan and a bigger focus on killing al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. Such an approach will be resisted fiercely by General McChrystal and most Republicans. Two other factors have played a significant role in the debate. Mr Obama is concerned that the discredited Government of President Karzai could doom a counter-insurgency strategy to failure. The second is how encouraged the Administration has become over the Pakistani Governments willingness to take the battle to extremists inside its own borders. (The Times)