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White House

 

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White House Unhappy With McChrystal "Campaign"?

Robert Gibbs tried his best today to downplay talk that the White House is unhappy with General Stanley McChrystal making a very public case for particular Afghanistan strategy, chalking such speculation up to the standard Washington parlor game.

"The general made an assessment and we're going through a series of decisions, including that assessment," the press secretary said. "That's what these meetings are about. That's the process that the president is going through in meetings three and four this week, to try to get this strategy right and to do it not based on the back-and-forth or rumors about this or that, but on what he thinks is best -- in the best national security advice and posture of the United States of America and how it can best protect us."

National Security Adviser Jim Jones seemed to send something of a message in an interview yesterday, saying recommendations should typically work their way through the chain of command and not be made publicly. Tangling with CNN's Ed Henry today, Gibbs denied that the White House was unhappy with McChrystal "campaigning" for his recommendations. "I get that the Washington game is to do the back-and-forth," he said.

Though Gibbs was not present for Obama's one-on-one meeting with McChrystal in Copenhagen last week, he said it was "very constructive" and focused on "what's going on in Afghanistan, not what's going on on cable television." He repeatedly stated that Obama is "comfortable with where the process and how it's moving forward."

Meetings will continue at the White House this week on Afghanistan, with Obama set to brief a bipartisan group of leaders from the House and Senate tomorrow. All options are on the table, with one major exception, Gibbs said.

"The president was exceedingly clear that no part of the conversation on -- no part of the conversation involved was leaving Afghanistan," he said. "That's not something that has ever been entertained, despite the fact that people still get asked, 'What happens if we leave Afghanistan?' That's not a decision that's on the table to make." He went on to say, "I don't think we have the option to leave. I think that's -- that's quite clear."

Outside the White House there are some significant protests about Afghanistan, with the anniversary of the United States' first strikes in the nation after 9/11. Somewhat surprisingly, Gibbs said he was unaware that they were going on, despite their proximity to his office. Reporters could hear them from the Rose Garden at an event this morning.