By Sam Youngman - 11/12/09 11:27 PM EST
President Barack Obama is unsatisfied with the options presented to him on Afghanistan, but a spokesman said he is nearing a decision.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on Air Force One that the process is winding down, but he thinks it is “likely” that Obama will hold another meeting with his war council.
“I think we’re making progress,” Gibbs said. “I think the president gets closer and closer every day.”
The White House has not disputed reports that Obama essentially rejected the four options he and his national security team discussed in the eighth meeting of the war council on Wednesday.
“What we have to do is establish a security environment that ultimately can be passed to the Afghans to provide that security,” Gibbs said. “That requires an Afghan national army, an Afghan national police, and a partner in delivering governance and services in order to establish -- in order to further establish a strong central government.”
“I will say I think all the participants involved would tell you that we have examined issues that will make the president’s decision better and give, I hope, the American people confidence when the president explains why he made his decision and what factors went into it, that they'll have confidence in the mission.”
Obama is traveling to Asia, with a Thursday night stop in Alaska, and Gibbs said a decision will not be announced while Obama is traveling for the next week. He did say the president would continue his consultations as he travels to Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea over the next week.
Gibbs said the U.S. embassy in Kabul continues to work with the Afghan government to secure agreements that would aid in Obama's comfort level as he considers sending as many as 40,000 more troops to the region.
Gibbs said “it's sufficient to say that whether on the civilian side of our effort, whether on the military side of our effort, or on the governance side of the Afghans, the president will want -- has asked for and will want benchmarks to evaluate our progress.”
“That's part of his desire to get a sense of where we are rather than committing to an open-ended conflict,” Gibbs said.