Obama: Afghanistan Decision within Weeks

In this picture released by U.S. Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, right, greets Command Sgt. Maj. Arthur L. Colman during his visit to Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, July 20, 2008. Obama and other senators traveling with him met with many soldiers and sailors from their respective constituencies, said a U.S. military spokesman. (AP Photo/U.S. Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, HO)
AP
President Barack Obama says he will make his decision on new U.S. troops for Afghanistan in "the coming weeks."

Mr. Obama told reporters Tuesday that decisions on the military front are important but are just one aspect of the improvements needed to the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. He said an important element is building up civilian capacity, to help improve Afghanistan's governance, agriculture, rule of law and other areas.

The president took questions after meeting at the White House with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Mr. Obama has met twice with his war council to discuss new tactics in Afghanistan. One of those meeting came after he received Afghanistan commanding Gen. Stanely McChrystal's formal request for a .

Related: McChrystal on "60 Minutes"

Mr. Obama has ruled out withdrawing from Afghanistan, or significantly drawing down forces by shrinking the focus of the war to a narrow counterterrorism effort.

CBS News Special Report: The Road Ahead
Special Report: Afghanistan

Mr. Obama announced in March that he would be sending 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. But the Washington Post reported today that, in an unannounced move, the White House has also authorized - and the Pentagon is deploying - at least 13,000 troops beyond that number, according to defense officials.

The additional troops are primarily support forces, including engineers, medical personnel, intelligence experts and military police. Their deployment has received little mention by officials at the Pentagon and the White House, who have spoken more publicly about the combat troops who have been sent to Afghanistan.

The deployment of the support troops to Afghanistan brings the total increase approved by Mr. Obama to 34,000. The buildup has raised the number of U.S. troops deployed to the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan above the peak during the Iraq "surge" that President George W. Bush ordered, officials said.

The war has claimed nearly 800 U.S. lives and sapped American patience. Launched after the terrorist attacks to defeat the Taliban and rid al Qaeda of a home base, the war has lasted longer than envisioned.