strategy in Afghanistan, White House spokesman RobertGibbs told a news conference earlier. Obama's visit to the Pentagon was low-key, compared to histrip to the State Department last week, possibly signaling hisintention to stress diplomacy over military power in worldaffairs. He appeared to take a swipe at his predecessor, formerPresident George W. Bush, saying that for too long the UnitedStates had relied too heavily on its military to achieve itsstrategic objectives and too little on diplomacy. "We have for a long time put enormous pressure on ourmilitary to carry out a whole set of missions, sometimes notwith the sort of strategic support and the use of all aspectsof American power to make sure that they are not carrying thefull load," he said. Obama has said he wants a responsible and phased withdrawalof U.S. troops from Iraq, where violence has dipped markedly inthe past year.
On the presidential campaign trail, he said acomplete withdrawal could be achieved within 16 months. AFGHAN REVIEW Obama has also ordered a comprehensive review of U.S.strategy in Afghanistan, and a White House official said onWednesday it would have a "significant non-military component,"a likely reference to development aid. The situation has deteriorated sharply in Afghanistan inrecent months amid rising violence and a resurgent Talibaninsurgency that has largely cost Afghan President HamidKarzai's government control of the provinces. Gates on Tuesday described Afghanistan as America'sgreatest military challenge. The Obama administration is considering almost doubling theU.S. force in Afghanistan from 36,000 to more than 60,000within 18 months. Vice President Joe Biden warned Americansover the weekend to brace for a rise in U.S troop casualties.
The Pentagon's ability to boost its forces in Afghanistandepends partly on how quickly it can withdraw them from Iraq,where 140,000 troops are deployed. It will be closely monitoring the performance of Iraqiforces during provincial elections this weekend If theyperform well that could allow U.S forces to speed up theirwithdrawal. Obama's visit to the Pentagon was part of a whirlwind startto his presidency that has seen him plunge into Middle Eastdiplomacy, tackle the economic crisis that has cost millions ofAmericans their jobs, and reverse some of the morecontroversial policies of the Bush administration. Topping his domestic agenda has been his effort to winCongressional approval for his $825 billion economic recoverypackage, which was passed by the House of Representatives onWednesday.
While most Americans are more concerned about losing theirjobs and paying their mortgages than the wars in Afghanistanand Iraq, Obama has made clear the United States cannot affordto allow Afghanistan to become a sanctuary again for al Qaedato launch new attacks on U.S. soil.(Additional reporting by David Morgan and Matt Spetalnick) Bonds Global Markets. Q4 EPS excl items 61 cents beats Street by 3 cents Stocks Q4 rev rose 12 pct to $173.5 mln Sees Q1 EPS 28 cents-38 cents vs est of 36 cents Suspended merit increases across company Jan 28 (Reuters) - Network equipment technology providerAvocent Corp AVCT.O posted a better-than-expected quarterlyprofit, helped by demand for its branded products, and said itwas cautious about 2009. For the first quarter, the company expects to earn between28 cents a share and 38 cents a share, on revenue of $138million to $146 million. Analysts were expecting 36 cents a share, before items, onrevenue of $158.3 million, according to Reuters Estimates. "Our outlook for 2009 is very guarded, recognizing theoverall forecasted decline in IT spending and servershipments," Chief Financial Officer Edward Blankenship said.