- The Washington Times - Monday, November 23, 2009

President Obama will meet Monday night with his national security team for a final time and announce the U.S. war strategy for Afghanistan as early as next week, the White House said Monday.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said he was not aware of additional meetings and that Mr. Obama has some final questions, including ones about the best exit strategy.

“He still needs to know not just how we get people there, but how we get people out,” Mr. Gibbs said during his daily press briefing.

The high-level, White House meeting is the tenth since August, near the time Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, presented his war-strategy plan, which reportedly calls for roughly 40,000 more troops.

The president has since been under pressure to make a decision about troop levels and has faced criticism from Republicans who say soldiers already in Afghanistan will face undue danger without additional help.

In February, Mr. Obama authorized sending an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, which brings the U.S. involvement to roughly 68,000.

The president’s expected announcement next week will most likely go beyond troop numbers and an exit strategy to include how the U.S. and other NATO forces will pursue al Qaeda and Taliban forces.

The president’s closed-door meeting Monday with his national security team for Afghanistan and Pakistan will take place in the White House Situation Room.

Those scheduled to attend include Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke — U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Gen McChrystal will participate via videoconference.

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