Obama's Afghan Strategy To Be Announced Soon

President Obama and his top military and national security advisers gathered once again at the White House Monday night. The subject was troop levels and strategies for the war in Afghanistan, and there was also the question of how to deal with neighboring Pakistan. Sources say plans are underway for a possible announcement in a prime-time speech by the president next week.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

A photograph put out by the White House last night suggests the wide effects of President Obama's looming decision on Afghanistan. It was an image of one more strategy session. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were at the table suggesting the range of military and diplomatic implications here.

MONTAGNE: Any extra money spent will be borrowed, and the president's budget director was there. At the head of the table: The man whose presidency may be defined in large part by the results of the war in Afghanistan. The White House said President Obama will announce his decision within days. Sources tell NPR that he will address the nation next Tuesday.

NPR's White House correspondent Don Gonyea joins us now. Good morning.

DON GONYEA: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: And what is the latest?

GONYEA: Well, you know that a decision is very close. If the president doesn't know right now exactly what he's going to do in Afghanistan, he's all but there and we expect him to spend the next few days, the Thanksgiving weekend finalizing all of it. The statement from the White House that you referred to also says that the White House knows a decision needs to be made and, of course, that's in coming days.

Again, we are looking at Tuesday, according to multiple sources. There will be a speech that would be followed on Wednesday, Thursday and in the weeks beyond by testimony on Capitol Hill by the defense secretary, by the secretary of state, by the chairman of the joint chiefs and, at some point, General Stanley McChrystal who will come back to D.C. from Afghanistan where he heads the mission.

MONTAGNE: Talk to us about the factors that have guided the presidents in these many months leading up to this decision.

GONYEA: They have talked often about how there needs to be a plan not just to send the troops in but how to get them out, that this can't be indefinite. But beyond that, if we look back during the campaign, the president's rhetoric as a candidate was this is the war we need to win, Afghanistan. It's the one we got distracted from by Iraq.

Earlier this year, he added 20,000 new troops but said he was going to reassess at that point. Then came those elections in Afghanistan that President Karzai won but there were all those allegations of fraud. He is - a controversial victory to say the least. That raised a lot of questions about the ability of the government to assist the U.S. as a viable partner and to eventually take over security of its own. So that's been a big part of why this decision has been so difficult and it is a big question going forward.

MONTAGNE: Through all this, though, the White House has been facing continued criticism mainly from Republicans that the process has been marked by indecision. He can't make up his mind or can't get there quickly enough. Is the White House worried that that opinion is gaining currency among the general public?

GONYEA: They say they're not, but they're watching it. And that's why the statement yesterday says that the White House recognizes that a decision needs to be made. You know, Vice President Cheney, former Vice President Cheney has been the most vocal critic along these lines, accusing the president of dithering. He used that word again yesterday in a talk radio interview.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says this takes time. It's a big decision. Give a listen:

Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (Press Secretary): There are a series of decisions that have to be made and the president is working through many of those decision in order to come to what he believes is the best way forward for our national security. And I think the American people want the president to take the time and get this decision right, rather than to make a hasty decision.

GONYEA: It has been a couple of months and that decision appears to be upon us. We're looking for an announcement on Tuesday.

MONTAGNE: And just briefly, you got also Democrats worrying about the cost of the war.

GONYEA: Indeed. And they say it could just swamp any efforts to have a very meaningful domestic agenda. That's one of the reasons the budget director was in the meeting yesterday, just trying to get a sense of what all this will cost/

MONTAGNE: Don, thank you. NPR's White House correspondent Don Gonyea.

GONYEA: A pleasure.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.