Obama May Make a Decision Tonight on Afghan Strategy

Posted November 23, 2009 at 2:30pm

President Barack Obama may make a decision as soon as Monday night on his strategy for Afghanistan, with an announcement coming as early as next week.

Asked whether Obama will “lock in— his decision based on a meeting Monday night with his senior military and civilian advisers, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs replied, “It may be tonight. It may be over the course of the next several days.—

Gibbs said Monday evening’s discussion will focus on questions that Obama has had for commanders on an “exit strategy— for troops in the region. Obama has been weighing his Afghanistan strategy — including whether to deploy additional soldiers — for several months. Republicans support a troop buildup and have been pressing him to make a decision, while some liberal Democrats have suggested he withdraw troops from the region altogether.

The political stakes are potentially very high, particularly since Obama will also need the support of liberals to pass a health care overhaul.

Anger from the left at Obama’s imminent move to increase troop levels was on display on ABC’s “This Week— on Sunday, as House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) asserted that adding to the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan would bankrupt the rest of Obama’s agenda.

“There ain’t going to be no money for nothing if we pour it all into Afghanistan,” Obey said.

Gibbs rejected that notion. He reminded that Obama talked “extensively— during the 2008 presidential campaign about the need to address the Afghanistan war as part of the agenda. Gibbs asserted that Obama’s decision on Afghanistan will not harm his ability “to deal with other issues, like the economy and health care.—

Obey said Congress should levy a surtax to cover the cost of deepening U.S. involvement in the war, but Gibbs said there has been no discussion that he is aware of during Obama’s meetings with his war council about raising taxes to pay for the new troops. He said a discussion on how to pay for a new commitment to carry out the Afghanistan strategy should wait until after Obama finishes deliberating.

“I’m not going to get into how one funds a decision that’s yet to made,— Gibbs said.

Nevertheless, Gibbs did not rule the idea out, and he noted that the president told the joint chiefs of staff that “we had to take into account how much all this was going to cost.—

Gibbs sought to remind Obey and other critics that Obama inherited the war from former President George W. Bush.

“Presidents don‘t get to decide what issues ultimately get to their desk,— he said.

Monday night’s meeting between the president and his top military and civilian advisers will be his ninth of its kind. Republicans have charged that Obama is taking too long.

Gibbs brushed aside the criticism.

“This is a complicated decision,— Gibbs said. “There are a series of decisions that need to be made. I think the American people want the president to take the time to get this decision right.—