By Dan Dupont / October 31, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The New York Times today reports that the Bush administration got together recently with Afghanistan experts to talk about the rapidly growing conclusion that things are not improving over there.

Their audience, the Times writes: advisers from the presidential campaigns of John McCain and Barack Obama.

Over two days, according to participants in the discussions, the experts laid bare Afghanistan’s most pressing issues. They sought to make clear that the next president needed to have a plan for Afghanistan before he took office on Jan. 20. Otherwise, they said, it could be too late.

The next president will also face what could be politically fraught decisions about how aggressively to pursue a campaign against militants taking shelter in Pakistan’s tribal areas and whether to embrace negotiations under way in Afghanistan aimed at getting elements of the Taliban to lay down their arms. The discussions were started earlier this month in Saudi Arabia, and talks among Afghan officials and Taliban representatives have continued in Kabul at the request of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.

So who was there?

It was organized by Barnett R. Rubin, an Afghanistan expert and a professor at New York University, and included John K. Wood, the senior Afghanistan director at the National Security Council; Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, a former American commander in Afghanistan who is now at NATO headquarters; and Kai Eide, the United Nations representative in Afghanistan, according to some participants.

The Obama campaign sent Jonah Blank, a foreign policy specialist for Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., and Craig Mullaney, another Afghanistan adviser for Mr. Obama, participants said. They said the McCain campaign was represented by Lisa Curtis and Kori Schake, two former State Department officials.

Our latest on Afghanistan:

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LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, VA -- Deploying more troops to Afghanistan could result in more Air Force ground-attack aircraft heading to the region, according to Air Combat Command’s chief of operations.

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