President Obama plans to meet with war council on first full day

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's promise to end the war in Iraq will be on the agenda today when the new commander in chief meets with top national security aides and senior commanders, officials said.

Obama was summoning his holdover defense secretary, Robert Gates, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, to the White House, along with other members of his National Security Council, to discuss a way ahead in the war, according to two senior military officers.

The officers spoke on condition of anonymity because the White House had not publicly announced the meeting.

The war in Afghanistan also was to be discussed, with the commander overseeing both conflicts, Gen. David Petraeus, scheduled to attend.

Also scheduled to participate via videoconference were Gen. David McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the top commander in Iraq.

During his campaign, Obama said he intended to withdraw all U.S. combat brigades from Iraq within 16 months, although it was not clear Tuesday whether the president would issue a hard-and-fast order Wednesday to end the war on that specific timeline or declare his intentions in more general terms.

In his inaugural address Tuesday, Obama said he would "begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan," though he offered no details about his plan for either war.

Petraeus is in the midst of a broad and deep review of his entire region of responsibility, which encompasses Iraq and the rest of the Middle East as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan and the rest of Central Asia.

With the inclusion of Petraeus, Odierno and McKiernan, the meeting Wednesday appeared to reflect, at least in part, Gates' preference for offering the president a full range of views -- from senior civilians as well as top military commanders -- at key junctures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The military service chiefs, with whom Obama would be expected to consult at some point, were not expected to attend Wednesday's session.

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