ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report:
At 5 p.m. ET Sunday evening, President Obama met in the Oval Office with key members of his national security team and “communicated his final decision on the strategy…and issued orders on the strategy’s implementation,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reports Monday morning.
Joined by his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Vice President Biden, President Obama gave the orders to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, JCS Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright, Central Command Commander Gen. David Petraeus, and National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones (Ret.). Earlier in the day he spoke by phone with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
After that meeting, the President walked from the Oval Office to the Situation Room and held a similar meeting by secure video teleconference at 6 pm EST with commander of US forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Gen. Karl Eikenberry (Ret.).
The President will be in “close consultation with our friends and allies throughout the day,” Gibbs said.
At 10:40 a.m. EST this morning the President spoke with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He also spoke to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of NATO. He was scheduled to talk with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at noon, and and at 1 pm over a secure video teleconference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Today’s calls to foreign leaders will be to update leaders on the “strategy, the process that’s gone into this,” Gibbs said, noting that Secretary Clinton will head to Europe for meetings with NATO next week.
The President is meeting with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the Oval Office later this morning, though the president will not be asking for more troop contributions from down under.
“The Australians have throughout the Spring, increased their contribution to Afghanistan,” Gibbs said, “to a level that we are obviously quite pleased with.” There are currently 1,550 Australian troops in Afghanistan.
The president will call Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari later today or tomorrow before his speech, scheduled for shortly after 8 pm ET from West Point.
Gibbs said the President will mention in the speech, “the limits on their resources, both from a manpower perspective as well as a budgetary perspective.”
“The President will talk about, ‘This is not an open ended commitment,’” Gibbs said, “that the goal and the purpose of the strategy is to train Afghan national security force, comprised of an Afghan national army and a police, that can fight an unpopular insurgency in Afghanistan so that we can then transfer that security responsibility appropriately back to the Afghans.”
“I think he will go through why we are there, what he believes this process, what this process brought about and outline what he hopes to see,” Gibbs said. “You will hear the president discuss clearly that this is not open ended….that this is about what has to be done in order to insure that the Afghans can assume the responsibility of securing their country.”
In England over the weekend, Brown announced he would chair a conference in London on January 28, 2010, for the leaders of Afghanistan, the countries contributing troops to the region, Afghanistan's neighbors, regional powers and key international institutions “to drive forward our campaign in Afghanistan, to match the increase in military forces with an increased political momentum, to focus the international community on a clear set of priorities across the 43-nation coalition and marshal the maximum international effort to help the Afghan government deliver.”
Setting benchmarks for the Afghan government, Brown said:
• Within three months the Afghan government “needs to have identified additional troops to send to Helmand province for training,” part of what he said would be an increase of 50,000 troops in the Afghan army by the end of 2010.
• Within six months, Brown said, the Afghan government will need to provide “a clear plan for police training, and that means that the corruption that has been identified in the police has been dealt with and we have police trainers to have a police force that works with the local community rather than sometimes against it.”
• Within nine months, Afghan President Karzai will need to have appointed almost 400 provincial and district governors to provide services to the Afghan people.
• Within a year, an additional thousands more Afghan troops will need to have been trained, with the goal of transferring in at least five Afghan districts and provinces – one or two in Helmand Province — to lead Afghan control during 2010.
“Consultations with Congress will continue today and tomorrow in the run-up to the speech,” Gibbs added.
There will be a full briefing of the new strategy at the White House tomorrow at 4:30 pm EST for Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.
- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller