- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 3, 2009

President Obama unexpectedly met Friday in Copenhagen with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, one day after the general spoke out publicly of his need for more troops to defeat a resurgent Taliban.

The president and the general met on board Air Force One for 25 minutes at the end of Mr. Obama’s five-hour visit to Copenhagen, where he had traveled in an unsuccessful attempt to secure the 2016 Summer Olympic Games for Chicago.

“The president thought the meeting was very productive, an extension of the meetings that have been had thus far as we reassess and re-evaluate moving forward in Afghanistan,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said after the meeting.

As public support for the war ebbs, Mr. Obama and his national security team are reviewing recommendations made by Gen. McChrystal. Two camps have emerged. One, supporting the general, envisions more troops for a counterinsurgency strategy that, if successful, would leave the country’s government stable enough to ward off al Qaeda from Pakistan and hold the Taliban at bay. The other camp believes a lighter force, aided by drone aircraft, could fight off the terror groups.

Gen. McChrystal flew from London to Copenhagen specifically to meet with Mr. Obama at the president’s request, Mr. Gibbs said.

On Thursday, Gen. McChrystal, in an unusual move, told an audience of military specialists of his need to increase his force of 68,000 despite the president’s deliberations.

The general was asked at the gathering whether he supported reducing the American footprint in favor of a more lightweight effort to go after specific targets, and said, “The short answer is: No.

“You have to navigate from where you are, not from where you wish to be,” he said. “A strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy.”

Mr. Gibbs emphasized the more human elements of the president’s meeting with the general, mentioning that Gen. McChrystal brought his wife to meet Mr. Obama, and said that the president “likes very much personally Gen. McChrystal.” Mr. Obama appointed Gen. McChrystal in May.

Mr. Gibbs added that “Gen. McChrystal expects that the president and others are going to ask him questions about the assessment that he’s made.”

In Washington on Thursday, Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, said he had “not yet endorsed” any troop increase.

“That is something I can assure has not leaked and is exceedingly closely held, although that is about to be introduced into the equation,” he said at the Atlantic’s “First Draft of History” conference. “Because obviously at a certain point, once you have talked about goals and objectives and then discussed various options for achieving those goals and objectives, you’ve got to put a price tag on it, and that price tag eventually, of course, will have numbers of troops possibly associated with it, will have numbers of dollars associated with it, will have numbers of civilians associated.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama met with his national security team, including Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, special Afghan and Pakistan envoy Richard C. Holbrooke and retired Gen. James L. Jones, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser.

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