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Obama Meets With Afghanistan Commander In Denmark

Afghan police stand by as flames rise from an oil tanker hit by militants in Konduz, northern Afghanistan on October 2.
U.S. President Barack Obama has met briefly with his top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, during a European stop to discuss White House strategy in the Afghan war, White House officials said.

Obama and McChrystal met aboard Air Force One on an airport tarmac in Copenhagen for about half an hour. The U.S. president was in Copenhagen for an ultimately unsuccessful pitch to persuade the International Olympic Committee to award the 2016 summer games to his adopted hometown of Chicago.

Obama has been consulting with his national security team on revising U.S. strategy there and whether to send as many as 40,000 more troops.

The meeting was the first between the U.S. president and his top Afghan commander since McChrystal presented a grim assessment of the war effort and requested more troops for the mission.

McChrystal's report on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, delivered to Obama last month, is the focus of an administration strategy review on whether to send more troops to fight the increasingly unpopular war.

'Serious' And 'Deteriorating'

In a speech at a London think tank on October 1, McChrystal delivered a blunt assessment of the eight-year-old conflict.

''The situation is serious and I choose that word very, very carefully," McChrystal said. "And I also say, neither the success nor failure for our endeavor there in support of the Afghan people and the government can be taken for granted. My assessment, my best military judgment, is that the situation is in some ways deteriorating, but not in all ways."

McChrystal added that violence in Afghanistan is mounting "not only because there are more coalition forces" but "because the insurgency is growing."

The Copenhagen meeting, which lasted about 25 minutes, was arranged after McChrystal flew in from London, where he had met with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and given a speech at the International Institute of Strategic Studies.

McChrystal has warned the Afghan effort will likely fail without a "significant change in strategy." He is reportedly seeking 30,000 to 40,000 more combat troops and trainers, according to defense and U.S. Congressional sources.

Key Strategic Moment

The administration is reportedly divided over whether to bolster forces or take an alternative path as Obama inches toward a potentially pivotal decision in the Afghan war.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters aboard Air Force One that "the president thought the meeting was very productive." He added that the two men "both agree that this [consultation] is a helpful process."

In his London speech, McChrystal highlighted the urgency of making the right decision about the Afghan war.

''We need to reverse the current trends, and time does matter. Waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome," McChrystal said. "This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely. Public support will not last indefinitely. But the cruel irony is that to succeed we need patience, discipline, resolve, and time.''

Obama has said he will ask tough questions of his top advisers and military commanders before making a decision, which is expected to take at least several more weeks.

The administration almost doubled the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan this year to 62,000 to combat the worst violence since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban rulers in 2001.

The U.S. contingent makes up the bulk of a 100,000-strong international force in Afghanistan. U.S. allies have been reluctant to commit more troops. Mounting casualties have contributed to falling U.S. and European public support for the war effort.

compiled from agency reports