WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama inches closer to a decision on new troops for Afghanistan, his latest war council debate Wednesday centered on how to strengthen U.S. civilian efforts there and significantly ramp up training of the Afghan police and army.
Obama met for three hours with his national security team, the fifth of six such meetings scheduled for the president to consider where to take the eight-year-old war.
The White House added a meeting for next week, by which time there may be a decision on whether to hold a runoff presidential election in Afghanistan between President Hamid Karzai and his chief challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.
The allegations of widespread fraud in the Aug. 20 voting are among the most troublesome factors in Obama's strategy review. An Afghanistan government seen as illegitimate by its people could create openings for the Taliban and a renewed safe haven for al-Qaida. Many fear that any U.S. effort – no matter how big or well-targeted – could fail as a result.
The U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission could rule as soon as Saturday on whether to discard enough Karzai votes to force a runoff with Abdullah. The new vote, logistically difficult to pull off, would have to be held within two weeks.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday he would consider more troops for Afghanistan where U.S. commanders say the Taliban insurgency, contr...