November 18th, 2009
10:39 PM ET

The Round-Up: Obama's decision on troops 'very close'

A round-up of news and commentaries from CNN as well as other media and Web sites.

President Obama told CNN’s Ed Henry that a decision on troop levels in Afghanistan is "very close.” 

"I will announce that decision certainly in the next several weeks,” he said.

Obama has been holding regular meetings with his war council to develop options for sending more troops to Afghanistan. Last week, the president told the group - comprising top cabinet, Pentagon and administration officials - that the U.S. troop commitment to

Afghanistan is not open-ended.  The president then asked for revisions to options he previously received, a senior administration official said at the time. The war council is considering a request by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, for up to 40,000 more troops.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the eve of President Hamid Karzai’s inauguration for a second term. Calling it a critical moment for the country, Clinton said Karzai has a “clear window” to demonstrate the kind of government he will lead

Clinton's attendance at the inauguration will show U.S. support for Karzai's government after an election that was tainted by fraudulent balloting. Karzai is under intense international pressure to clean up corruption within his government, and Clinton was to deliver a tough message on the need to show results, a senior U.S. official told CNN. 

In other news and commentary:

- The German cabinet has decided to extend the country's mission in Afghanistan, but won't approve more troops. Germany's mission in Afghanistan was due to end on December 13, but the extension would keep them there until the same date next year, a spokesman for the German government told CNN Wednesday. The German Parliament must still approve the extension and is expected to vote on it next month.

- U.S. Democratic Senator John Kerry – the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – defended President Obama’s deliberations over the Afghan troop increase in a Q&A session with USA Today.

“There are many questions which there weren't answers to that have now been asked. The president wanted a number of different options. And that's important in this kind of consideration,” he said. “When you commit young people to go out and fight and die for your country, that's the least you owe them.”

- Earlier this month, James Dobbins – the Bush administration’s first envoy to Afghanistan - had a piece in Foreign Affairs magazine exploring “what [Afghan President] Hamid Karzai’s rise to power means for how he will govern now.”

- Over at his blog at Foreign Policy magazine, Tom Ricks recounts a conversation he had with David Kilcullen, a NATO and U.S. consultant. Ricks writes: “His bottom line is that there are two real options in Afghanistan: Either tell the Kabul government we are pulling out, or put in enough troops to actually break the cycle of corruption, which he said would be a minimum of about 40,000.”

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