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Biden urges Obama privately not to send more troops to Afghanistan [Updated]

September 29, 2009 | 10:15 am

Vice President Biden greets U.S. troops at airport in Baghdad, Sept. 17, 2009

President Obama is spending much of the next two days -- at least until he jets off to Copenhagen for his midnight diplomacy for Chicago's Olympics bid -- on Afghanistan.

Today, he met with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. On Wednesday he meets with the major players on Afghanistan strategy, an Oval Office meeting that includes Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the student of Afghanistan who said in a recent report that the 8-year-old war would end in failure without additional troops and changes in strategy aimed at gaining the trust of the Afghan people.

But perhaps the key meeting on Afghanistan policy comes this afternoon when Vice President Biden joins the president and the Pentagon secretary in a private, serious sit-down in the Oval Office.

[Updated at 3:58 p.m.] The vice president's plan: Scale back the overall American military footprint in Afghanistan, drop the mission of rescuing the country from the Taliban, focus on strikes against Al Qaeda along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border -- the real threat to U.S. national security -- using special forces and Predator missile attacks.

Biden, with a son serving in the military and years as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also brings one memory to the table that the 48-year-old Obama does not. At 66, Biden has a visceral feel for the American casualties in Vietnam.

Obama, who campaigned for the presidency arguing that President Bush had focused too many troops in Iraq at the expense of Afghanistan, rejected Biden's advice during the first round of Oval Office meetings back in March. Amid signs he is rethinking Afghan strategy, will Obama agree this time?

The White House is trying to douse expectations of a decision meeting for any of this week's get-togethers.

"This isn't going to be finished in one meeting," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. "It's not going to be finished in several meetings,"

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Vice President Biden meets with U.S. troops at Baghdad Airport Sept. 17. Credit: Associated Press

An earlier version of this post said that the vice president had made speeches recently about his plan. Aides say Biden, in deference to the confidential relationship between a president and vice president, has been careful to keep his advice to the confines of the Oval Office.

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