President Obama huddled at 5 p.m. Sunday with his top military and national security team, issuing orders for the Pentagon to implement his plan for sending more than 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama “issued orders” from the Oval Office to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Gen. David Petraeus, Adm. Mike Mullen, National Security Adviser Jim Jones, Gen. James Cartwright and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Before that meeting he spoke via phone with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“The president communicated his final decision on the strategy … and issued orders on the strategy’s implementation,” Gibbs said.
Obama also will be in “close consultation with our friends and allies throughout the day” because the administration believes the war “is a shared international challenge.”The president has called foreign leaders Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He will call Russian President Dimitri Medvedev and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown today. He also is meeting privately with Australia’s Kevin Rudd today at the White House.
Australia has sent more troops to Afghanistan this year to a level the U.s. is “quite pleased with,” Gibbs said, and Obama is not planning to ask the country for more.
Obama will formally announce the troops decision tomorrow night in a speech from West Point Military Academy.
The White House refuses to offer guidance on the exact number of troops who will be sent to the region, and Gibbs told reporters Obama is not being “overly specific” in his calls with world leaders to keep the circle of people who know tightly secure.
Gibbs said at 6 p.m. last night Obama spoke via secure video teleconference with Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry from the Situation Room to lay out his decision. He will tell 31 members of Congress tomorrow at 4:45 P.M.
Obama is still working with Ben Rhodes of the NSC team on the final version speech.
Late Update: The Pentagon used its Twitter feed to solicit thoughts from citizens: “Lots in the news today on Pres. Obama’s Afghan speech tomorrow. What points and/or issues do you think he should highlight?”