WASHINGTON (CNN)– President Barack Obama's national security team will begin discussing the number of troops needed in Afghanistan as early as this Friday, according to a White House spokesman.
In an unusual move, the president asked for and received the "informal" request by the top commander in Afghanistan which outlined how many more troops and resources Gen. Stanley McChrystal needed to implement his preferred Afghanistan strategy, the Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday. Obama received the request on Thursday, a day before he met with McChrystal in Copenhagen.
The discussion of troop levels appears to be a departure from the administration insistance that the Afghanistan strategy must be decided before any resources can be considered. The White House's spokesman said the introduction of troop levels did not mean resource levels were being decided first.
"One has to develop and get the strategy before one can figure out the resources one needs to get it," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "We are not pre-judging the outcome of the discussion based on some range of resources."
As part of the strategy review, some discussion of resources is necessary, a senior US official said.
"We are now working on what are called the resource options piece. It's actually resourcing the strategy, and that is about to be introduced into the discussion here as well," he said.
Gen. David Petraeus, commander of Central Command had hinted at this during a Tuesday speech in Washington.
"All participants recognize that, at the appropriate moment, the level of resourcing required has to be discussed as a component of the decision-making process. And that moment is just about upon us," the official said.
The White House insisted there is no change in approach.
"The president is very content not to do this backwards. Not to pick a number of troops and devise a strategy but to go through this in a rigourous way," Gibbs added.
In preparation, the chiefs of staff for the four services held an hour-long meeting on Tuesday to give Adm. Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, their views on Afghanistan and the impact of sending more troops, two Defense Department officials said.. Adm. Mullen is attending the White House meetings.
The president's receipt of the informal version of the resource request - before it had been reviewed and commented on by McChrystal's superiors, including Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates - is a departure from the traditional process. The principals involved in the president's review of Afghanistan strategy were given the same document on Monday, spokesman Geoff Morrell said.
The Pentagon's spokesman said the move was not an attempt to circumvent the chain of command and it is not an indication that a strategy has been settled on.
"Let's work it through the chain of command as it should be and we can use that time towards that ends while this discussion, at a more macro level, takes place," Morrell said at a Pentagon press conference.
–CNN's Ed Henry contributed to this report.