Obama meets war cabinet for final decision: Officials
President Barack Obama has huddled with his war cabinet for what
officials indicated could be the final time before he decides whether to
dispatch tens of thousands more US troops to Afghanistan.
Top officials at the two-hour meeting on Monday night, the ninth
gathering of Obama's national security team to review Afghan strategy
since August, included Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton.
The meeting began just before 8:15 pm (0115 GMT Tuesday) and lasted
around two hours. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that
a decision on troops could be announced as early as next week.
'It's not going to happen this week,' he said. 'Obviously the first
possible time would be some time next week.' National Public Radio,
citing unnamed sources, said that the president plans to make the
announcement in an address to the nation on December 1.
An administration official said Monday could 'possibly' be the last
time Obama will consult his team before making an announcement, though
he cautioned 'that's not something we can say definitively.' Attending
the war meeting via videoconference were two men very much at odds over
the decision: General Stanley McChrystal, commander of US and NATO
troops in Afghanistan, and Karl Eikenberry, US ambassador in Kabul.
McChrystal has asked for around 40,000 more US troops, cautioning
that the intensifying Taliban insurgency could win out if he does not
get the reinforcements within a year.
Currently, there are 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
In diplomatic cables leaked earlier this month, Eikenberry - a
retired army general who commanded US forces in Afghanistan from 2005 to
2007 warned against sending more troops until Afghan President Hamid
Karzai gets a grip on the rampant corruption in his administration.
While Karzai has earned the opprobrium of the international community
since a fraud-tainted election in August highlighted the massive levels
of official graft in Afghanistan, his inauguration speech Thursday
generally won praise.
He pledged to clean up corruption, eradicate drug production and
trafficking, work towards ending a Taliban-led insurgency, and see that
Afghan security forces can take over from international forces in five