- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2009

President Obama on Friday will host another high-level White House meeting on the war in Afghanistan and a military request for more troops, but no decision is expected until later this month.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said before the 2:30 p.m. meeting a decision is “several weeks away.”

He also said President Obama “feels the discussions are going well.”

The Situation Room meeting Friday is the fourth of five scheduled and will include 16 top administration officials.

Mr. Gibbs left open the possibility of more meetings and said the one today will focus largely on Afghanistan, not Pakistan, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s war assessment that calls for more troops.

“I’m sure at points [attendees] will get into resource requests,” Mr. Gibbs said earlier this week.

Gen. McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has requested 30,000 to 40,000 additional troops.

Previous meetings — including one Wednesday largely about Afghanistan neighbor Pakistan — have focused on strategy, including how to fight insurgents in the region and assessing the threats of the al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist groups.

The war, now in its ninth year, and plans for clear strategy have recently emerged as the American public and Mr. Obama’s top concerns.

In addition to holding the meetings, the president has spoken directly with Gen. McChrystal since he submitted his assessment.

Republicans largely support more troops to protect the roughly 68,000 already there, including the additional 21,000 troops and trainers Mr. Obama ordered in March.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, Wisconsin Democrat, said Thursday that increasing the war effort in Afghanistan would cost nearly a trillion dollars over the next decade.

Said Mr. Gibbs: “I think the figure that I saw is for every thousand troops per year, it’s a billion dollars.”

Among those scheduled to attend the meeting are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Ambassador Richard Holbrooke; Gen. David Petraeus, of U.S. Central Command; and CIA Director Leon Panetta. Gen. McChrystal will participate via videoconference.

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