Obama Hasn't Heard "Magic Phrase" on Afghanistan

(White House )
After the latest 3 hour strategy session on Afghanistan, President Obama is still not ready to make a decision on how many more troops, if any, to deploy. He has now taken part in 15 hours of policy review and has another meeting with his war council next week.

Spokesman Robert Gibbs says the president has yet to hear the "magic sentence" or "magic phrase" that will enable to him finish his strategy review and make the pending decision on troops.

Gibbs was adamant in shooting down a BBC report that Mr. Obama has settled on sending another 45,000 American forces to Afghanistan. Gibbs said Mr. Obama had not yet made a decision, much less conveyed word to the British.

The spokesman again ruled out the option of a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan saying "the president has been clear to say, we're not leaving Afghanistan."

Today's session focused on efforts by the U.S. and its allies to strengthen the "civilian mission within Afghanistan." Gibbs said the president also received an updated report on programs to train the Afghan National Army and Police.

The 3-hour meeting in the White House Situation Room was again attended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Adviser Jim Jones, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen and others. Secretary of State Clinton was traveling in Russia and took part by telephone from her Air Force plane. The U.S. Ambassadors in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Karl Eikenberry and Anne Patterson, respectively, as well as the top military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, all took part in the session by way of a secure video hookup.

Gibbs, who also attended the session, said the participants are not shy about voicing their opinions to the president about U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

"This is not a shrinking violets group," said Gibbs at his afternoon press briefing.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown today announced his government is ready to send another 500 troops to Afghanistan>.

"We're thankful for a strengthening of the coalition," said Gibbs, even as the U.S. re-assessment continues.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Afghanistan

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/markknoller.
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