Top Republican urges decision on war strategy

Afghanistan Election
Afghanistan's presidential challenger Abdullah Abdullah announces his decision not to participate in Afghanistan's run-off election at a gathering in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. Musadeq Sadeq / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The top House Republican on Sunday pressed President Barack Obama for a decision on whether to send more troops to war in Afghanistan, saying the muddled runoff election there should not further delay a strategy review that already has dragged out for months.

A top White House adviser insisted that former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah's withdrawal from next weekend's election won't complicate Obama's evolving war plan.

House Republican leader John Boehner said he always expected Afghan President Hamid Karzai would win the Nov. 7 runoff that was scheduled in the wake of widespread claims of fraud during the initial vote in August. Boehner said Abdullah's withdrawal, announced Sunday in Kabul, "really says more about the fact that he knew he wasn't going to win."

"But that should not hamper our decision with regard to Afghanistan," said Boehner. "The longer this decision hangs, the more jeopardy and the more danger our troops on the ground there are in the middle of. ... I would hope the president would make a decision and make it soon."

White House reviewing strategy
Obama and his top national security advisers are reviewing the U.S. role in the 8-year war in Afghanistan, where 68,000 American troops will be fighting by the end of the year. The war has turned increasingly bloody over the last several months, and the president is considering a strategy shift to focus more on eliminating al-Qaida and terrorist allies in Pakistan with unmanned spy planes instead of sending many more troops to Afghanistan to target the Taliban.

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has asked for up to 80,000 additional troops to fight the Taliban and says he needs at least 40,000. The White House has signaled it likely will send over more forces, but likely far fewer than that.

It's not clear whether the Afghan presidential runoff will be held without Abdullah.

Senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett said Sunday that the muddled election would not complicate the White House strategy decision.

"We're going to work with the leader of the Afghan government, and hopefully that's going to create the state of conditions for the people of Afghanistan, and also help us as we try to bring this war to a close," Jarrett said.

She did not object to suggestions that the electoral confusion would delay Obama's decision, saying that the president is "going though a very vigorous process."

"Before he puts our men and women in harm's way, he wants to make absolutely sure he has a strategy," Jarrett said. "He's looking for a strategy that leads to keeping our nation safe. He'll make the decision when he's confident that he has all the facts that he needs."

Jarrett appeared on ABC's television "This Week" and Boehner was on CNN's "State of the Union."