October 19th, 2009
03:31 PM ET

Behind the scenes in Obama's war council debate

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/10/14/obama.afghanistan/art.obama.advisers.wh.gi.jpg caption="President Obama and his national security team meet in the White House Situation Room."]

Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

There's an air of mystery hanging over President Obama's war council, which meets in secrecy yet again this week to discuss a new strategy for Afghanistan in the highly secure White House Situation Room.

But senior officials closely involved in the decision-making process reveal that the president and his team are grappling with one particularly urgent question: Will Gen. Stanley McChrystal's push for 40,000 more U.S. troops really secure Afghanistan?

McChrystal, who has been joining the president's war council by secure videophone, framed this debate weeks ago by writing in his now-famous memo that failing to send that many troops could result in the mission failing. But some of Obama's other top advisers are privately expressing heavy skepticism that sending 40,000 troops will result in a successful Iraq-style surge.

"Afghanistan is not Iraq," one senior administration official said. "To say that we can take what we did in Iraq and Xerox it and send it to Afghanistan is obtuse."

A second administration official confirmed this viewpoint has real currency inside Obama's war council.

"With 40,000 more troops, you cannot do an Iraq-style surge," this official said. "It's totally different than Iraq. The strategy is not easily transferable - there are unique challenges in Afghanistan."

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Barack Obama • Iraq
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