On Afghanistan, President Obama Presses Pentagon for More Information Before Making Decision

By Britt

Nov 12, 2009 10:11am

Some White House officials thought that President Obama's 8th "war council" meeting Wednesday to decide on a strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan might be the last. But by the time it wrapped up, no decisions had been made and so many lingering questions remained about the strategy forward, it seemed clear that more meetings were necessary and any announcement will be delayed far beyond the unofficial November 11 deadline administration aides had been shooting for.

In Wednesday's meeting, Pentagon officials presented more details about four strategies — two from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and two others — but President Obama was not satisfied with their assessments.

Specicially, he pushed the generals to clarify how and when U.S. troops would be able to turn over responsibility to the Afghan government.

"The key sticking points appear to be timelines and mounting questions about the credibility of the Afghan government," an administration official said, adding that the President "wants to make it clear that the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan is not open-ended. After years of substantial investments by the American people, governance in Afghanistan must improve in a reasonable period of time to ensure a successful transition to our Afghan partner."

Currently 68,000 US troops are in Afghanistan. All four of the options the president and his war council are discussing add more troops, but with different troop levels, costs and strategies. The most ambitious strategy, from Gen. McChrystal, would send 40,000 more troops.

In London, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that he expects President Obama "to announce in a few days what his numbers for Afghanistan will be."

But White House officials disagreed, saying a decision was still weeks away.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that US. Ambassador to Afghanistan Gen. Karl Eikenberry (Ret.), whose opinion the President is said to respect quite a bit, has sent two classified cables underlining how problematic it will be to send more troops until President Hamid Karzai demonstrates a willingness to clean up his government.

-jpt

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