* Holbrooke's death overshadows meeting
* Strategy review to be unveiled Thursday
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON, Dec 14 A review of U.S. war
strategy in Afghanistan has determined that a troop increase
led to important progress which may permit some soldiers to
withdraw next July, the White House said on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama met for nearly two hours with his
national security team in a meeting overshadowed by the death
of special envoy Richard Holbrooke, who died on Monday after
weekend surgery to repair a torn aorta.
Obama ordered 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan a year
ago with the goal of turning the tide against a resurgent
Taliban. A year later, a two-month review of strategy in
Afghanistan and Pakistan is to be unveiled on Thursday.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the review will say
that "important progress" has been made in halting the momentum
of the Taliban. It will cite some success against al Qaeda and
that there has been greater cooperation with the Pakistani
Nothing in the review suggests that there should be any
change in Obama's desire for some of the added troops to start
leaving Afghanistan beginning in July, based on conditions on
the ground, said Gibbs.
"I think we are on course for the the July 2011 date based
on the conditions you've always heard the president say," he
Gibbs would not specify how many troops might be able to
leave, saying this is something that will be worked out with
commanders on the ground as the date approaches.
Some Republicans, such as Senator John McCain, ranking
Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, have
complained that the July 2011 date is damaging to the U.S.
mission in Afghanistan. McCain has said that establishing the
date has encouraged U.S. enemies and confused its friends.
Obama's closed-door war review included top officials who
worked frequently with Holbrooke. The session began with
tributes to Holbrooke by the president and Secretary of State
The strategy will say the U.S.-led effort in the region
continues to face many challenges as the United States and its
allies try to prepare Afghanistan to take over its own security
Gibbs said Obama asked his team to make some changes in the
review, that some parts of it be augmented. He did not identify
the sections involved.
(Editing by Christopher Wilson)