Afghan plan coming 'within weeks': Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama said his decision on his country's strategy in Afghanistan will be made in "the coming weeks."
While military and security decisions will be an important element in that strategy, Obama said "another element is making sure we're doing a good job in building capacity on the civilian side."
The Obama administration is in the midst of an intensely debated review over how to overhaul its approach to the Afghan conflict. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is believed to have presented Obama with a range of options, from adding as few as 10,000 troops or as many as 40,000, which is the general's preference.
Obama has held four top-level meetings with key administration officials. A fifth is scheduled for Wednesday, and a sixth will be held next week.
Though he gave no indication of what he will decide, Obama said the U.S. mission in Afghanistan hasn't changed.
"Our principal goal remains root out al-Qaeda and its extremist allies that can launch attacks against the United States or its allies," he said Tuesday.
A senior administration official told The Associated Press last week that Obama will determine how many more troops to deploy to Afghanistan based only on keeping al-Qaeda at bay.
A focus on al-Qaeda is the driving force behind an approach being advocated by Vice-President Joe Biden as an alternative to the McChrystal recommendation for a fuller counterinsurgency effort inside Afghanistan.
Biden has argued for keeping the American force there around the 68,000 already authorized, including the 21,000 extra troops Obama ordered earlier this year, but significantly increasing the use of unmanned Predator drones and special forces for the kind of surgical anti-terrorist strikes that have been successful in Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere.
Also Tuesday, the White House rejected reports that the president authorized 13,000 additional troops that were now arriving in Afghanistan. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the troops were part of a deployment ordered by the former Bush administration that had not made their way to the Afghan theater by the time Obama took over the presidency.