"President Barack Obama is confronting a split among his closest advisers on Afghanistan, reflecting divisions in his own party over whether to send in thousands more U.S. troops and complicating his efforts to adopt a war policy he can sell to a public grown weary of the 8-year-old conflict.
With top military commanders and congressional Republicans pushing for a troop increase, Obama pressed key members of his national security team Wednesday for their views during an intense, three-hour session in a packed White House Situation Room.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the discussion focused on the political and security situation on the ground, according to an administration official, with military commanders detailing the gains made by the insurgency and top diplomats discussing the Afghan election results that were marred by fraud claims.
In an interview with the Journal, a senior defense official said that Defense Secretary Robert Gates now worries that counterinsurgency might no longer be a viable approach for countering the Taliban violence roiling once-stable parts of north and west Afghanistan.
Gates, a Bush administration holdover, has emerged as one of Obama's most trusted advisers, so his views carry significant weight in the deliberations.
"Even 40,000 more troops don't give you enough boots on the ground to protect the Afghans if the north and west continue to deteriorate," the official said. "That may argue for a different approach."
A shift in Gates's thinking would be particularly striking because he has long been a major advocate of counterinsurgency, which is credited with helping to sharply reduce Iraq's once-unrelenting violence."
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