WASHINGTON -- The White House began its review of the Afghan war strategy in earnest Tuesday, with senior administration officials meeting via videoconference with the top commander in Kabul, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, at the start of what could be weeks of debate over whether to send thousands of reinforcements.
White House officials said President Barack Obama will join in the discussions Wednesday, when he is expected to meet with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, among other top officials.
The White House unexpectedly decided to review its strategy in Afghanistan after a series of recent setbacks in the war, including allegations of fraud following last month's presidential elections and surging violence throughout the country. It begins just days after Gen. McChrystal submitted his request for as many as 40,000 additional troops to the Pentagon.
Some in the administration, notably Biden, have argued for a smaller military footprint and a tighter focus on counterterrorism as the best way forward.
Advocates of such a shift point to the effective use of Predator drone strikes to kill Taliban leaders in Pakistan. Two additional Predators are expected to be shifted soon to the region to patrol the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, according to people familiar with the decision, a move that would bring the total drones in the theater to a number the military has wanted for years.
Obama gave voice to a possible shift in emphasis on Tuesday when he spoke of "dismantling, disrupting, destroying the Al Qaeda network" as the mission, without mentioning the Taliban. He also said the U.S. is working with the Afghans to bring security to the country.