The Obama administration is moving toward a hybrid strategy in Afghanistan that would combine elements of both the troop-heavy approach sought by its top military commander and a narrower option backed by Vice President Joe Biden, a decision that could pave the way for thousands of new U.S. forces.
The emerging strategy would largely rebuff proposals to maintain current troop levels and rely on unmanned drone attacks and elite special-operations troops to hunt individual militants, an idea championed by Biden. It is opposed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Kabul, and other military officials.
One scenario under consideration, according to an official familiar with the deliberations, calls for deploying 10,000 to 20,000 U.S. reinforcements primarily to ramp up the training of the Afghan security forces. But Gen. McChrystal's request for 40,000 troops also remains on the table.
People familiar with the internal debates say Obama rejected a strictly counter-terror approach during White House deliberations in early October. One official said Pentagon strategists were asked to draft brief written arguments making the best case for each strategy, but the strategists had difficulties writing out a credible case for the counter-terror approach -- prompting members of Biden's staff to step in and write the document themselves.
Signs the White House is moving towards Gen. McChrystal's view of the conflict mounted Friday as the 28 North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense ministers endorsed the commander's counterinsurgency strategy and signaled they might be open to modestly increasing their military and civilian contributions to the war effort.