Washington: Senior advisers of US President Barack Obama, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, are reportedly in favor of sending 30,000 or more additional American troops to Afghanistan.
But the New York Times quoted administration officials, as saying that Obama remains unsatisfied about answers relating to how vigorously the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan would help in executing a new strategy.
The paper says that Obama is to consider four final options in a meeting with his national security team on Wednesday.
According to his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, the options outline different troop levels, and also assume different goals - including how much of Afghanistan the troops would seek to control - and different time frames and expectations for the training of Afghan security forces.
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.
Gates, a Republican, who commands considerable respect from Obama, is expected to be pivotal to the final decision.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, remain skeptical about the value of a troop build up.
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 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 Obama to describe a credible exit strategy.
Officials said that although the president had no doubt about what large numbers of United States troops could achieve on their own in Afghanistan, he repeatedly asked questions during recent meetings on Afghanistan about whether a sizable American force might undercut the urgency of the preparations of the Afghan forces who are learning to stand up on their own.
"He`s simply not convinced yet that you can do a lasting counterinsurgency strategy if there is no one to hand it off to," one participant said.
Obama, officials said, has expressed similar concerns about Pakistan`s willingness to attack Taliban leaders who are operating out of Quetta and commanding forces that are mounting attacks across the border in Afghanistan.
Karzai is considered by American officials to be an unreliable partner and is now widely derided in the White House.
A focus of Obama`s meeting on Wednesday with his national security advisers, officials said, will be to discuss some of their differences as well as those of the President`s other advisers.
Officials also said there was a possibility that Obama might choose to phase in additional troops over time, with a schedule that depended on the timing of the arrival of any additional NATO troops and on how soon Afghan security forces would be able to do more on their own.