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Obama, advisers meet on Afghanistan

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with his national security team to discuss Afghanistan on Monday.
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with his national security team to discuss Afghanistan on Monday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: White House makes no statement after meeting ended
  • Obama will not announce decision until at least next week
  • Meeting included Biden, Gates, Mullen, McChrystal, Eikenberry, White House says
  • Obama wanted clarification on how, when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility
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Washington (CNN) -- U.S. President Barack Obama met Monday night with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the White House announced.

It was the ninth meeting of the president's war council to consider whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, as requested by the U.S. commander on the ground there.

The White House made no statement after the meeting ended at 10 p.m. ET (0300 GMT).

The meeting included Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, Afghanistan commanding Gen. Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and other senior officials, the White House said earlier.

At the last war council meeting -- on November 11, Veteran's Day -- Obama pushed for revisions in proposed plans for troop increases to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government.

Obama would seek answers to the questions he posed on November 11 about "not just how we get people there, but what's the strategy for getting them out," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said before the meeting.

No matter what happened at the meeting, Gibbs said, Obama will not announce a decision on troop deployment until at least next week.

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One option calls for sending about 34,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in addition to the 68,000 already committed to the country, with other options involving variations of that plan, sources told CNN.

Before the November 11 meeting, Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, told CNN that the decision-making process was approaching completion. Petraeus emphasized the need to focus on the mission of ensuring that Afghanistan "does not once again become a sanctuary or safe haven for al Qaeda and the kind of transnational extremists that carried out the 9/11 attacks."

The Obama administration has expressed concerns about Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's viability and has ratcheted up pressure to end corruption in order to combat an intensifying Taliban insurgency.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a trip to Afghanistan last week to attend Karzai's inauguration after his recent re-election, reiterated the U.S. concerns in a dinner meeting with Karzai and encouraged him to seize the "clear window of opportunity" before him at a "critical moment" in Afghanistan's history.

The United States and other countries are increasing their civilian presence in Afghanistan to bolster efforts to stabilize the country, the the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, told reporters on Monday.

Asked about the corruption problem, Holbrooke noted that some Afghan government ministers have "extraordinary records" of accomplishment. The United States will work with those ministers, while recognizing that years of civil war and social woes have weakened overall leadership capabilities in Afghanistan, he said.

"This is one of the main reasons we're increasing our civilian role," Holbrooke said. "And it's extremely delicate to get the mix right. We want to help the Afghans help themselves. We do not want to replace a sovereign government with internationals."

Republican opponents are pushing Obama to quickly agree to McChrystal's reported request for up to 40,000 additional troops in Afghanistan as part of a counterinsurgency strategy.

"This won't be perfect or easy, but it will allow America's fighting men and women to leave Afghanistan with honor, and it will enable Afghans to build a better, more peaceful future," said a letter to Obama from 10 Republican senators sent on Veteran's Day.