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Obama Pushes Back Against Afghan Options

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And Im Michele Norris.

President Obama has wrapped up his latest session with his war council to chart the way forward for the war in Afghanistan. The White House have said earlier this week, the president had narrowed his deliberations to four final options.

But tonight, administration officials say the president has decided no to accept any of those war options.

NPR's defense correspondent Mary Louise Kelly is on the line.

And Mary Louise, what do we know about where the president's thinking is right now?

MARY LOUISE KELLY: Well, a bit of a surprise twist from this meeting tonight, Michele. We have two administration officials telling NPR that the president is out, he listened to the four options that had been build, as you mentioned, as final options - we're thinking had really narrowed down to - and that he's not accepting any of them in their current form.

We're told that he is pushing for a lot more clarity on when U.S. troops would be able to hand over responsibility to a government of Afghanistan, pushing for more clarity in terms of timelines, when the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan could at some point wrap up. He apparently wants to make it clear that that commitment is open-ended.

So raising real questions that could alter the dynamic of the discussion here in terms of how many troops get sent in and what the timeline for their presence in Afghanistan would be.

NORRIS: Mary Louise, we're also hearing reports of the president's ambassador to Afghanistan, maybe raising objections to a troop build-up. Can you tell us more about that?

KELLY: That's correct. This is Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. He is the U.S. ambassador in Kabul. Significantly, he was the former U.S. commander in Afghanistan just a couple of years ago. He is reported to be expressing deep reservations about the wisdom of sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until it is clear whether Afghan president Hamid Karzai is on course to correct corruption within his government to be a reliable partner for the U.S.

How much weight Ambassador Eikenberry's view is going to carry at this point, we don't know, but he is clearly raising objections and clearly, that's in line with the questions we hear that the president was asking tonight.

NORRIS: Any idea of a timeline for this decision?

KELLY: Well, we've been told we might get an announcement later this month that - we're told that that is still on track. But again, it looks like they're ripping open the process a little bit and pushing back to narrow.

NORRIS: Thank you very much, Mary Louise.

KELLY: You're welcome, Michele.

NORRIS: That's NPR's Mary Louise Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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