JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – President Barack Obama mourned 14 Americans killed Monday in helicopter crashes in Afghanistan and told a military audience he will not be hurried as he evaluates whether to alter U.S. strategy in the war.
“I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm’s way. I won’t risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary,” Obama said during a visit to Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
Obama is nearing a decision on whether to commit large numbers of additional troops to the war next year. His top military commander in Afghanistan favors an increase of roughly 40,000, which would allow the U.S. military to expand its reach in areas under Taliban sway.
Obama’s visit to the naval air station came after a war council session with about a half-dozen Cabinet officials and other top advisers earlier Monday amid Republican criticism that he is taking too long to choose his next move.
The Situation Room session focused on the cooperation between U.S. military and civilian efforts in Afghanistan, White House officials said. Another session may be held later this week.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters a decision was expected in the coming weeks.
A war plan that asks Obama to commit tens of thousands of additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan is too ambitious, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said Monday.
Kerry, who was the White House’s point man during last week’s tense talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, praised Gen. Stanley McChrystal but said his plan for adding troops in Afghanistan “goes too far, too fast.”