- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

President Obama has settled on his plan to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, he told reporters Tuesday, saying he will lay out in detail his new strategy for the eight-year war after having spent months deliberating with his war council.

“After eight years, some of those years in which we did not have, I think, either the resources or the strategy to get the job done, it is my intention to finish the job,” Mr. Obama said during a brief joint appearance with Indian Prime Minister Manmohon Singh. “And I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we’re doing there, and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive.”

Mr. Obama first began a series of strategy meetings with his war council in August, pitting top military commanders who wanted to pour 40,000 or more additional troops into the Afghan conflict, against Vice President Biden and other political advisers who warned that escalating the conflict could lead the president into a quagmire on the scale of Vietnam.

Mr. Obama initially scheduled five meetings with key generals, Cabinet members, and national security advisers. Those five meetings grew into nine, the last of which concluded at 10 p.m. Monday night after a final two hours of discussion.

In the last few days, Mr. Obama scheduled individual Oval Office conversations with several of the participants, and others, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who were not in the council sessions. Aides said he also telegraphed some of his plans for Afghanistan during meetings in Asia last week with the leaders of China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea. The president said he also addressed the topic during his bilateral session with the Indian prime minister Tuesday morning.

The White House will attempt to control the roll out of his announcement over the Thanksgiving weekend, with targeted leaks, and confront the topic head-on with a primetime televised address to the American people, most likely on Tuesday.

To avoid jumping the gun, the White House canceled a scheduled press briefing Tuesday and limited reporters to only a single question for the president at the long-scheduled joint appearance.

Mr. Obama laughed off a request by CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller to head off the inevitable leaks about his war plan by taking advantage of the Tuesday morning press conference and announcing key details right then.

“I will be making an announcement to the American people about how we intend to move forward, I will be doing so shortly,” Mr. Obama said. “I think that the review that we’ve gone through has been comprehensive and extremely useful, and has brought together my key military advisers, but also civilian advisers.”

“It is in our strategic interest, in our national security interest, to make sure that Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies cannot operate effectively in those areas,” he said. “We are going to dismantle and degrade their capabilities and ultimately disable and destroy their networks. And Afghanistan’s stability is important to that process.”

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