Washington (CNN) – Hours before he was set to address the nation on his new Afghanistan strategy, President Obama and members of his war council spent about an hour briefing senior members of Congress at a White House meeting that multiple sources described as businesslike and sobering.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who attended the meeting, said Obama laid out his plans to escalate the military mission before several lawmakers asked questions.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN the president emphasized that in addition to sending some 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, he also has a "target for when this is coming to an end."
"The president believes that gives the Afghans enough time, and the Pakistanis enough time to take control of the situation," Durbin said.
Three GOP sources told CNN that Sen. John McCain used the meeting to directly challenge the president on his exit strategy.
The sources said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell deferred to McCain, who questioned the concept of announcing now plans to begin withdrawing in July, 2011.
These sources said the president responded to McCain by promising that the withdrawal would be based on conditions on the ground.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn was one of the only members of the Democratic leadership in either chamber to tell CNN "I'm very supportive of it."
Even Durbin, one of the president's closest allies, told CNN he is withholding judgment. "The president took some time to reach his decision, I'm going to need some time to reach mine," Durbin said.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama's decision to send another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan met Tuesday with a mixed reaction among the nation's leaders.
Leading Republicans backed the additional deployments, but questioned the creation of a three-year withdrawal timetable.
The sharp disagreement among members of Obama's own party indicates potential political trouble for the president as he tries to rally the country around his decision to expand American involvement in the eight-year conflict.
Obama announced the deployments - along with the three-year withdrawal plan - in a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, on Tuesday night.
(The mixed reactions of 15 key lawmakers and politicians after the jump)
Washington (CNN) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement after President Obama's speech Tuesday night:
“President Obama inherited a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan because the Bush Administration did not have a plan to get the job done.
“Tonight, the President articulated a way out of this war with the mission of defeating Al Qaeda and preventing terrorists from using Afghanistan and Pakistan as safe havens to again launch attacks against the United States and our allies. The President has offered President Karzai a chance to prove that he is a reliable partner. The American people and the Congress will now have an opportunity to fully examine this strategy.
“Our troops in Afghanistan and around the world have performed excellently; they have done everything that has been asked of them. As always, we are grateful and respectful of the enormous sacrifices our men and women in uniform, and their families, have made.”
(CNN) - Now we know what the 20 hours of Situation Room sessions were about. This was a forceful, methodical case for sending 30,000 more troops – with a clear exit strategy by July 2011.
A few important things:
· He made it very clear the safety of the American people is at stake, reminding us of 9/11 … and telling us that we have apprehended extremists on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border who were preparing to commit "new acts of terror" against the U.S.
· He also made it clear we are no patsies.
· And he noted that there is no blank check for Hamid Karzai, and the Pakistanis need to stop harboring terrorists.
What remains unanswered: if these nations don't cooperate and reform, what do we do?
(CNN) - President Obama turned straight to camera for his closing remarks.
"And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering."
Men and women embarking on military careers are all around him now. They are so….young.
(CNN) - President Obama on the difference between Afghanistan and Vietnam:
" … (U)nlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border."
(CNN) - Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, said he supports the mission change, but he has concerns about the exit strategy.
"My major concern is that the administration is more focused on an exit strategy than a success strategy," Alexander said. "An exit strategy should come only after we've achieved success."
(CNN) – President Obama refutes Vietnam comparisons and warns that to leave now would put the U.S. in danger of another attack on the homeland. He rejects idea of not sending any troops as an unacceptable "status quo."
The president notes that without a timetable there would be no sense of urgency on the Afghan government.
Great line: "The nation I'm most interested in building is our own."
(CNN) - Liberals said today that they appreciate President Obama's plan not to have an open-ended commitment. But anti-war lawmakers told me it doesn't make sense to send all these new troops to Afghanistan and bring them right home. They're very skeptical of it.