According to a White House spokesman, Obama was considering four options on US policy in Afghanistan as he headed into the meeting with his national security team. Meanwhile speculation mounts over a decision on troop levels.
He denied reports that the president had already settled on a figure and said a decision was still weeks away.
The top US military commander in Afghanistan has asked for at least 40,000 more US troops there, BBC News reports.
It was also reported, three of the options call for specific levels of additional troops. The low-end option would add 20,000 to 25,000 troops, a middle option calls for about 30,000, and another embraces Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for roughly 40,000 more troops. Administration officials said that a fourth option was added only in the past few days. They declined to identify any troop level attached to it.
Mr. Gates, a Republican who served as President George W. Bush’s last defense secretary, and who commands considerable respect from the president, is expected to be pivotal in Mr. Obama’s decision. But administration officials cautioned that Mr. Obama had not yet made up his mind, and that other top advisers, among them Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, remained skeptical of the value of a buildup.
In the Situation Room meetings and other sessions, some officials have expressed deep reservations about President Hamid Karzai, who emerged the victor of a disputed Afghan election. They said there was no evidence that Mr. Karzai would carry through on promises to crack down on corruption or the drug trade or that his government was capable of training enough reliable Afghan troops and police officers for Mr. Obama to describe a credible exit strategy, The New York Times reports.
Meanwhile, though the public is divided down the middle over whether Obama is taking too long to make the decision on troops, a poll suggests that there is widespread agreement that Afghanistan will never have a stable democratic government.
Only one in 10 people questioned said that will occur within a year; only one-third said that will ever happen. That may be one big reason why 56 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops, while 42 percent favor increasing troop strength.
According to the poll, four in 10 support the war in Afghanistan, with 58 percent opposing the conflic, CNN reports.