His second term already under way, President Barack Obama aims to set an optimistic tone when he takes the oath again to lead a divided nation seeking solutions to economic woes at home and conflict overseas.
The Obama administration said Friday it was trying to secure the release of Americans still being held hostage on the third day of a standoff with militants at a natural gas complex in the Sahara, as other U.S. citizens were being flown out of the country for recovery in Europe.
President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Friday they have agreed to speed up slightly the schedule for moving Afghanistan's security forces into the lead across the country, with U.S. troops shifting fully to a support role. The leaders also said Obama agreed to place battlefield detainees under the control of the Afghan government.
White House officials say they are considering leaving no American troops in Afghanistan after the end of combat in December 2014, although the administration remains committed to preventing the country from becoming a haven for al-Qaida.
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