Obama, U.S. Afghan commander meet in Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN Fri Oct 2, 2009 2:35pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama makes remarks about the Iranian nuclear program in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, October 1, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

U.S. President Barack Obama makes remarks about the Iranian nuclear program in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, October 1, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The top commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan on Friday met President Barack Obama for the first time since presenting a grim assessment of the war effort and requesting more troops.

Obama and General Stanley McChrystal met aboard Air Force One in Copenhagen before Obama headed back to Washington after pitching his adopted hometown of Chicago to the International Olympic Committee to host the 2016 summer games, the White House said.

McChrystal's report on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, delivered to Obama last month, is the focus of an administration strategy review on whether to send more troops to fight the increasingly unpopular war.

Obama convened his top foreign policy advisers at the White House on Wednesday with McChrystal participating via video link.

The Copenhagen meeting, which lasted about 25 minutes, was arranged after McChrystal flew in from London, where he met Prime Minister Gordon Brown and gave a speech on Thursday.

McChrystal has warned the Afghan effort will likely fail without a "significant change in strategy." He is seeking 30,000 to 40,000 more combat troops and trainers, according to defense and congressional officials.

The administration is divided over whether to bolster forces or take an alternative path as Obama inches toward a pivotal decision in the eight-year-old war.

"The president thought the meeting was very productive," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters aboard Air Force One. "They both agree that this is a helpful process," he said, giving no further details.

DECISION TO TAKE WEEKS

Obama has said he will ask tough questions of his top advisers and military commanders before making a decision, which is expected to take at least several more weeks.

The administration almost doubled the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan this year to 62,000 to combat the worst violence since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban rulers in 2001.

The U.S. contingent makes up the bulk of a 100,000-strong international force in Afghanistan. U.S. allies have been reluctant to commit more troops.

Mounting casualties have contributed to falling U.S. and European public support for the war effort.

McChrystal and Brown agreed that the Afghanistan mission was at a "vital stage," a British government spokesman said.

"On next steps, they agreed that further 'Afghanization,' including accelerated training of Afghan army and police, needed to be at the center of NATO's counter-insurgency efforts," the spokesman said.

(Additional reporting by Adrian Croft in London; Writing by Matt Spetalnick, editing by Alan Elsner)

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