President visits Arlington as Afghanistan strategy decision draws near

President visits Arlington as Afghanistan strategy decision draws near
William Cohen
William Cohen

by Steve Handelsman

WASHINGTON (NBC) - In an unscheduled visit on this Veterans Day, President Obama spent time among the graves at Arlington National Cemetery, specifically in a section set aside for the fallen from Iraq and from Afghanistan, where Mr. Obama's considering sending more U.S. troops.

It's a tough decision for the president.

"And as long as I am commander-in-chief, America's going to do right by them," said Mr. Obama.

Former defense secretary William Cohen urged the president to hurry.

"What's important is that he make a decision and make it reasonably soon because you've got young men and women who are out there carrying the battle who are at great risk. If we've got the wrong strategy, change it," said Cohen.

On Wednesday, the Commander in Chief met with advisors again where he got more options for troop deployment.

Afghan Commanding General Stan McChrystal's has asked for as many as 44,000 more troops.

That's far more than Vice president's Biden's plan to send as few as 10,000.

There are also new middle ground plans calling for up to 35,000 more troops.

That plan is reportedly backed by Defense Secretary Gates by Secretary of State Clinton and by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mullen. That's almost as many new forces as McChrystal requested.

But President Obama is looking past numbers to the troop's revamped mission.

"Go back to focusing on Al Qaeda, back to pushing back Taliban to the extent that we can stabilize Karzai's government, enough so that we can begin actually withdrawing from the region" said Rick Nelson of the Center for Strategic and International studies.

But short term, more US forces would be at risk. The Commander-in Chief is still working on the plan. The new best guess on when the President will announce his Afghan plan is now Thanksgiving.