Obama Wants Revised Afghanistan War Options

President Barack Obama won't accept any of the Afghanistan war options before him without changes, a senior administration official said, as concerns soar over the ability of the Afghan government to secure its own country one day.

Obama's stance comes as his own ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, is voicing strong dissent about a U.S. troop increase, according to a second administration official.

Eikenberry's misgivings center on a concern that bolstering the American presence in Afghanistan could make the country more reliant on the U.S., not less. He expressed them in forcefully worded cables to Washington just ahead of Obama's latest war meeting Wednesday.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss administration deliberations.

The developments underscore U.S. skepticism about the leadership of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose government has been dogged by corruption. The emerging administration message is that Obama will not do anything to lock in an open-ended U.S. commitment.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that she is concerned about Afghanistan's "corruption, lack of transparency, poor governance (and) absence of the rule of law."

"We're looking to President Karzai as he forms a new government to take action that will demonstrate — not just to the international community but first and foremost to his own people — that his second term will respond the needs that are so manifest," Clinton said during a news conference in Manila with Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo.

Obama is still expected to send in more troops to bolster a deteriorating war effort.

He remains close to announcing his revamped war strategy — troops are just one component — and probably will do so shortly after he returns from a trip to Asia that ends Nov. 19.

Yet in Wednesday's pivotal war council meeting, Obama wasn't satisfied with any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, one official said.

The president instead pushed for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government. In turn, that could change the dynamic of both how many additional troops are sent to Afghanistan and what the timeline would be for their presence in the war zone, according to the official.

Military officials said Obama has asked for a rewrite before and resisted what one official called a one-way highway toward war commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendations for more troops. The sense that he was being rushed and railroaded has stiffened Obama's resolve to seek information and options beyond military planning, officials said, though a substantial troop increase is still likely.

The president is considering options that include adding 30,000 or more U.S. forces to take on the Taliban in key areas of Afghanistan and to buy time for the Afghan government's small and ill-equipped fighting forces to take over. The other three options on the table are ranges of troop increases, from a relatively small addition of forces to the roughly 40,000 that McChrystal prefers, according to military and other officials.

The war is now in its ninth year and is claiming U.S. lives at a record pace as military leaders say the Taliban has the upper hand in many parts of the country.

Eikenberry, the top U.S. envoy to Kabul and a former commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, is a prominent voice among those advising Obama, and his sharp dissent is sure to affect the equation.

The options given to Obama will now be altered, although not overhauled.

Military officials say one approach is a compromise battle plan that would add 30,000 or more U.S. forces atop a record 68,000 in the country now. They described it as "half and half," meaning half fighting and half training and holding ground so the Afghans can regroup.

"The government of Afghanistan has to accept greater responsibility for its own defense," Clinton said Thursday. She had no comment on the Eikenberry memos.

The White House says Obama has not made a final choice, though military and other officials have said he appears near to approving a slightly smaller increase than McChrystal wants at the outset.

Among the options for Obama would be ways to phase in additional troops, perhaps eventually equaling McChrystal's full request, based on security or other conditions in Afghanistan and troop levels by U.S. allies there.

The White House has chafed under criticism from Republicans and some outside critics that Obama is dragging his feet to make a decision.

Obama's top military advisers have said they are comfortable with the pace of the process, and senior military officials have pointed out that the president still has time since no additional forces could begin flowing into Afghanistan until early next year.

Under the scenario featuring about 30,000 more troops, that number most likely would be assembled from three Army brigades and a Marine Corps contingent, plus a new headquarters operation that would be staffed by 7,000 or more troops, a senior military official said. There would be a heavy emphasis on the training of Afghan forces, and the reinforcements Obama sends could include thousands of U.S. military trainers.

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  • by LEW Location: Farmville on Nov 12, 2009 at 07:57 PM
    WHAT A WEAK LEADER. But what did you expect. This is the same cowardly Illinois Senator who voted "Present" on 34 differant occassions to avoid having to take a stand. It is fun to talk bad about George Bush, but if he had not gone into Iraq, Saddam Hussein would still be in charge and he would have weapons of mass destruction by now and we would have a horrible untenable sitution in the middle east. Thank God we went in when we did-- based on the information that the intelligence operatives gave him at the time it was a good, strong decision. Obama is too afraid to incur the wrath of his Muslim brothers to do anything. As the terriorist incident at Ft. Hood has shown us, we are more vulnerable now than ever. He has dismantled our intelligence community, threatned to prosecute people who are doing thier jobs, and is more worried about the terriorist at GITMO than protecting our country. Have we forgotten the 3,000 that died on 9/11? Under Obama we are doomed to repeat this!!!
  • by Derek Location: Greenville on Nov 12, 2009 at 06:32 PM
    Well I think we've surpassed the Soviets in our campaign in Afghanistan, so maybe throwing more troops in isn't the option. I am glad he is trying to find the best solution. But I agree with Mike, he should probably just listen to the generals on the ground in Afghanistan. I am willing to bet the situation now would not be where it is if it wasn't for the Iraq distraction. Maybe we should plan our wars better, and avoid situations like these.
  • by Barlow Location: Winterville on Nov 12, 2009 at 06:06 AM
    Maybe Obama should put on a soldier costume and strut around a little and say something tough like, lemme see,..how about..MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!. Then he could be a REAL leader, right?
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Nov 12, 2009 at 05:24 AM
    When you have a cowardly president that has not clue what to do, this is what happens. He is led by the nose to do what the radical left want. They don't care if soldiers die since they loathe the military anyway. We told you Obama was weak kneed, you voted for him and now wonder why things are not going very well in Afganistan. Well, eventually, this will move over to Iraq since the failures in the Afgan stuggle is allowing the opposition, Al Queda to grow. Nice job Mr President, why don't you allow Donald Duck come up with a "new solution"?
  • by Billy Bob Location: Stokes on Nov 12, 2009 at 04:26 AM
    The scary thing is that this joker is in charge of the defense of the country. Sometimes Barack you need to where the big pants and make a decision. At present you are risking the lives of troops because you can not make a decision. If you are over your head call McCain or Bush for some help. There is nothing wrong to admitting that you need help.
  • by Edgar Location: Chocowinity,NC on Nov 12, 2009 at 04:05 AM
    Afganistan is going to be Obama’s Katrina
  • by Mike Location: Edenton on Nov 12, 2009 at 03:37 AM
    Here we go again! Just like 'Nam. Politicians who have no military training or experience ignoring good advice and running a war from behind a desk halfway around the world. It's classic Footdragging 101. But then the CIC drags everything out anyway.
  • by ma Location: wash on Nov 12, 2009 at 03:16 AM
    corruption, lack of transparency, poor governance (and) absence of the rule of law." Gosh this kinda sounds like Washington D C, what universe is Hilary in?
  • by Barlow Location: Winterville on Nov 12, 2009 at 02:53 AM
    Again, we are lucky to have someone who is intelligent and capable as leader of the Free World. Not a bumbling nincompoop who "goes with his gut" but somebody who will weigh ALL his options and make the best decision based on FACTS. I don't think Bush even knew that Cheney was the one actually running things for about three years into his second term.
  • by Gator Location: NC on Nov 12, 2009 at 02:47 AM
    President Obama basically said during his campaigning that Afghanistan needed to be dealt with. That was over a year ago. Can we at least say he is over his "pay grade" in this situation. And now he is going to decide what to do after a trip to Asia.

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