Obama Seeking Options on Afghanistan Force Levels

Obama Seeking Options on Forces - Anne E. Kornblut and Greg Jaffe, Washington Post.

President Obama has asked the Pentagon's top generals to provide him with more options for troop levels in Afghanistan, two US officials said late Friday, with one adding that some of the alternatives would allow Obama to send fewer new troops than the roughly 40,000 requested by his top commander. Obama met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the White House on Friday, holding a 90-minute discussion that centered on the strain on the force after eight years of war in two countries. The meeting - the first of its kind with the chiefs of the Navy, Army, Marine Corps and Air Force, who were not part of the president's war council meetings on Afghanistan in recent weeks - prompted Obama to request another such meeting before he announces a decision on sending additional troops, the officials said.

The military chiefs have been largely supportive of a resource request by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, that would by one Pentagon estimate require the deployment of 44,000 additional troops. But opinion among members of Obama's national security team is divided, and he now appears to be seeking a compromise solution that would satisfy both his military and civilian advisers. Obama is expected to receive several options from the Pentagon about troop levels next week, according to the two officials, who discussed the deliberations on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly...

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Obama Meets Joint Chiefs to Review Afghanistan Strategy - Thom Shanker and Helene Cooper, New York Times.

President Obama met Friday with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the way ahead in Afghanistan - in particular how sending more forces might affect the health of the military, already strained by eight years of war. Administration and military officials said the top officers from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force briefed the president on the long-term consequences for personnel and equipment under various options being considered. The central question is whether the scope of reinforcements would require the military either to cut time at home between deployments or to extend tours in the combat zone. No decisions were made Friday. With Mr. Obama scheduled to leave Washington for a weeklong trip to Asia on Nov. 11, one administration official said the likelihood of announcing his decision before then was fading.

The meeting came as administration officials are starting to grapple with how Mr. Obama will make the case for his Afghanistan strategy, whatever his decision. Mr. Obama has come under fire from critics who say he has yet to explain clearly to the country or the international community what he is trying to do in Afghanistan, and why it is worth risking more American troops. The issue of deployments is of particular concern to the ground forces, which are carrying the burden in Afghanistan and in Iraq. An important variable is the current timetable for Iraq, which envisions almost all Marines out by next spring, with overall troop levels scheduled to drop to about 50,000 by the end of next summer...

More at The New York Times.

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