LINCOLN, Nebraska - A senior White House adviser said Friday that President Barack Obama's talks on Afghanistan with top national security advisers earlier in the day ran much deeper than the question of sending more troops into the war.
Presidential adviser David Axelrod, in a speech at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said "a lot of different factors" are being considered in the internal discussions, including allegations of fraud in Afghanistan's recent presidential election and America's strained relationship with Pakistan.
"Fundamentally, what we need to think through is what is the best way to achieve our goals, which is to disrupt and dismantle Al Qaeda, so they can't stage operations against the U.S. and our allies," Axelrod said.
Obama, who was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize early Friday, is considering a request from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the war's top commander, for as many as 40,000 additional troops. There are 65,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan now.
Axelrod also took a shot at former President George W. Bush while lauding Obama's caution on how to proceed with the war, saying, "We've tried it the other way, and it didn't work."
Axelrod said he could not say when a decision would be made on whether to send more troops to the war zone.
"This is a complex issue," he said. "As an American, I'm happy the president is diving in as deep as he is and gathering information so he can make the right decision."
Axelrod's speech was the second of the university's Peter J. Hoagland Integrity in Public Service Lecture series, named for former Rep. Peter Hoagland. Hoagland, a Democrat, represented the Omaha area from 1989 to 1995. He died in 2007 at age 65 after battling Parkinson's disease.
Among those attending Axelrod's lecture were Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson and state Sen. Tom White, a Democrat who has announced his candidacy for Nebraska's 2nd District congressional seat currently held by Republican Lee Terry.
Nelson, a conservative Democrat who has balked at supporting a so-called public option in the ongoing debate on health care reform, was the target of some ribbing during the address.
Asked if the final version of health care reform would include a public option, Axelrod said, "I feel like I've been monopolizing the stage, so I'd like to turn this question over to Senator Nelson."
The joke drew applause and cheering from the heavily Democratic crowd of more than 500.
Nelson later brushed off the jest.
"I think everybody understood the humor," he said.