- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2009

President Obama ordered top military leaders to begin carrying out his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, a move that is believed to include the deployment of more than 30,000 additional troops into the 8-year-old conflict, the White House confirmed Monday.

In a 5 p.m. Oval Office meeting Sunday with his defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his top military commanders, Mr. Obama “communicated the final decision on the strategy and issued orders as to the strategy’s implementation,” press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

“The commander in chief delivered the orders,” Mr. Gibbs said.

That meeting was followed immediately by a video conference with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, and Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, to relay the details of the orders. On Monday, Mr. Gibbs said the president will hold a series of phone calls, video conferences and in-person meetings with other world leaders to prepare them for the Tuesday speech that will set forth his new plans for military engagement in Afghanistan.

Mr. Gibbs said the briefings to leaders of Great Britain, France, Russia, Australia and Italy will include outlines of the plan but not details. Those will come in a speech to the American people that the president is scheduled to deliver Tuesday evening from the campus of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

Immediately before Mr. Obama departs for West Point on Tuesday afternoon, he will brief more than 30 congressional leaders, including members of both parties.

In the speech, the president will explain his plan to impose benchmarks for progress, both in the training of Afghan security forces and in the development of a functioning government in Afghanistan. He will discuss the stress on American resources and reaffirm that the deployment of additional troops will not lead to an open-ended commitment.

The new strategy comes after months of deliberations with his top military, political and domestic advisers. In the end, it appears the president plans largely to fulfill the request by Gen. McChrystal for a major increase in troop strength in order to carry out a counterinsurgency strategy that aims not only to defeat extremists but to win over the loyalties of the Afghan people.

As the plan began to leak out over the long Thanksgiving weekend, there were reports it also will include an aggressive new outreach to Pakistan to help counter growing unrest there from Islamic extremists. The president also is expected to give his most detailed explanation to date of how he envisions finishing the American commitment there.

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