Obama to lawmakers: Many won't like my Afghanistan decision

President Obama met with 31 Democratic and GOP lawmakers at the White House Tuesday to talk about the strategy for Afghanistan.

Jim Young / Reuters
(From left to right) US House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) speaks with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), after a meeting between Congressional leadership and President Barack Obama on Afghanistan and Pakistan in Washington, on Tuesday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (l.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), speak outside the White House following a meeting between President Barack Obama and Congressional leadership to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan in Washington on Tuesday.

A meeting at the White House Tuesday gave President Obama and Congressional Democrats and Republicans the opportunity to draw their respective lines in the sand on the way ahead for US efforts in Afghanistan.

Republican leaders emerged from the meeting saying they would be happy to work with the president – as long as he supports senior military officers who are urging a surge of up to 40,000 US troops in Afghanistan. And if Mr. Obama doesn’t go that route? Then, said House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R), they'd want to be convinced of Plan B.

“What we’ll all be listening for is a compelling case for how we expect success to take place in theater if he does not listen to commanders in the field,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

According to a White House official, Obama told the group of 31 lawmakers at the meeting Tuesday that he will make a decision on Afghanistan that many people won’t like – but didn’t betray his thinking on the subject.

“[The president] also made it clear that his decision won’t make everybody in the room or the nation happy, but underscored his commitment to work on a collaborative basis with the understanding that everyone wants what is best for the country,” says the official.

It’s unclear if Democrats would support the president’s decision if Obama were to order up more troops for Afghanistan – many of them are opposed to deepening US engagement in the conflict there.

Sen. Harry Reid (D) of Nevada said he wanted to ensure that a proper strategy is in place before any decision is made to send over more troops. He appeared reassured on that point after the meeting.

“It’s very clear that the president is headed in the right direction – strategy before resources,” Mr. Reid said.

Obama confronts a major decision on Afghanistan. Top military officers including the top commander on the ground in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, have backed a counterinsurgency strategy to turn the conflict around through an initial surge of 40,000 troops to help protect the population and prevent Al Qaeda and other insurgent groups from gaining ground.

However, some at the White House, including Vice President Biden, are urging a narrower focus aimed at striking Al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Another option would be to essentially maintain the status quo, leaving the current force of about 68,000 on the ground and adding a small number of trainers to accelerate the development of the Afghan National Security Forces.

Gail Russell Chaddock contributed to this report.


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