WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama summoned his war council to the White House Situation Room on Wednesday for an intense, three-hour discussion that exposed emerging fault lines over Afghanistan – with military commanders pressing for more troops and other key officials expressing skepticism.
There was no discussion of specific troop levels during the meeting in the West Wing basement, according to a senior administration official.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and special Afghan and Pakistan envoy Richard Holbrooke appeared to be leaning toward supporting a troop increase, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Gen. James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, appeared to be skeptical of troop increases, the official said.
No firm or final recommendations were offered to Obama, the official said, suggesting that views were still evolving.
For most of Obama’s advisers, this was the first time they exchanged views in person – rather than via official channels and media leaks – and in a large group that included the president.
The meeting, the second of at least five Obama has planned as he reviews his Afghanistan strategy, comes after Obama received a critical assessment of the war effort from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the man he put in charge of the Afghan war earlier this year.