Obama holds new war cabinet talks on Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, October 15, 2009 (AFP) – US President Barack Obama huddled with his war council Wednesday for the fifth time, debating whether to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan to quell a growing conflict. Obama is to unveil a new strategy within weeks to contain an insurgency violence fueled by Al-Qaeda militants and the Taliban, which is on an upswing eight years after being ousted from power.

During Wednesday’s three hour meeting Obama was briefed by key aides on efforts to strengthen the civilian mission in Afghanistan and train Afghan security forces, with the vexed question of resources permeating the debate, the White House said.

The discussion brought Obama together Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton via videoconference from Russia.

It came after a grim assessment of the war by General Stanley McChrystal, the top NATO and US commander in Afghanistan, who has reportedly asked for up to 40,000 more troops to fight the insurgency.

McChrystal was also present for the discussion, as was Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and CIA chief Leon Panetta.