Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wire: Obama Advisers Split, Choose Sides on Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that President Barack Obama is seeing a split among his closest advisers on Afghanistan, reflecting divisions in his own party over how to change his failing strategy and whether to send in thousands more U.S. troops to the conflict.

With top military commanders and congressional Republicans pushing for a troop increase, The Associated Press said Obama asked members of his national security team Wednesday for their views during a three-hour session in the White House.

AP reported that the meeting didn't include specific discussions of troop levels, a senior administration official said.

At the meeting's conclusion, Obama reminded those attending that he hadn't reached a decision and that they should return twice next week with more details and ideas, the official said. The official spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

The talks revealed deep divisions within the administration, with military commanders solidly behind the request for additional troops and civilian officials divided.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and special Afghan and Pakistan envoy Richard Holbrooke appeared to be leaning toward supporting a troop increase, the official told AP.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Gen. James Jones, Obama's national security adviser, were in opposition, the official said. Vice President Joe Biden, who attended the meeting, has also been reluctant to support a troop increase, favoring a strategy that targets insurgents believed to be in Pakistan.

The meeting, the second of at least five Obama has planned as he reviews his Afghanistan strategy, comes after a critical assessment of the war effort from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the man he put in charge of the war earlier this year. McChrystal declared that the U.S. would fail to meet its objective of causing irreparable damage to Taliban militants and their al-Qaida allies if the administration did not significantly increase American forces, AP noted.
McChrystal is widely believed to want to add between 30,000 and 40,000 to the current U.S. force of 68,000.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both support McChrystal's strategy, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is on the fence, the spokesman said.
Last night, newswire services reported that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement that Obama will take the "next several weeks" to review his strategy on Afghanistan.

As of today, 43 U.S. servicemembers have died in Afghanistan since McChrystal called for reinforcements.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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