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Obama takes his time on Afghanistan -

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ELEANOR HALL: The US President is vowing not to be pressured into a quick decision about troop
levels in Afghanistan. Barack Obama held another meeting of his war council at the White House
today.

At the same time, in Afghanistan, a new confrontation is looming in the lead up to next month's
runoff election, with the President Hamid Karzai rejecting the demand from his challenger Abdullah
Abdullah to dismiss the country's top election official.

In Washington, correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: For the sixth time, President Barack Obama has convened a White House war council
session about what to do next in Afghanistan.

He's flown straight from that to a naval air station in Jacksonville, Florida.

BARACK OBAMA: How's it going Jacksonville? (Cheering)

KIM LANDERS: In front of more than 3,000 sailors and marines, the President has mourned the loss of
14 Americans in two separate helicopter accidents in Afghanistan - the deadliest single day for US
forces there in more than four years.

BARACK OBAMA: They were willing to risk their lives, in this case to prevent Afghanistan from once
again becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda and its extremist allies. And today they gave their lives,
that last full measure of devotion, to protect ours.

KIM LANDERS: But he's also told his military audience that he won't be hurried as he evaluates
whether to alter the US strategy in Afghanistan and whether to send more troops.

BARACK OBAMA: I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm's way. I won't risk
your lives unless it is absolutely necessary. And if it is necessary, we will back you up to the
hilt, because you deserve the strategy, the clear mission and the defined goals, as well as the
equipment and support, that you need to get the job done.

KIM LANDERS: It's understood the US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has asked
the President for 40,000 more troops.

As Barack Obama weighs his options, a top Senate Democrat, says General McChrystal's war plan is
too ambitious.

John Kerry, who's the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, has just returned from
several days of talks in Afghanistan.

JOHN KERRY: I believe his current plan reaches too far, too fast. We do not yet have the critical
guarantees of governance and of development capacity, the other two legs of counter-insurgency. And
I have serious concerns about the ability to produce effective Afghan forces to partner with, at
the rate that we need to, so that we can ensure that when our troops make heroic sacrifices, the
benefits to the Afghans are actually clear and sustainable.

KIM LANDERS: In a speech to the council on foreign relations, Senator Kerry says the US has to ask
what is possible in Afghanistan, and not set what he calls some sort of "hole digging" strategy.

He says achieving America's goals does not require the US to create a modern economy in
Afghanistan, it does not require the US to defeat the Taliban in every corner of the country and it
does not require the US to create a flawless democracy in Afghanistan.

And with the Afghanistan presidential runoff election due to be held next week, Senator Kerry has
addressed concerns about the leadership of Hamid Karzai, describing him as a patriot.

JOHN KERRY: I am convinced President Karzai understands the need to make some changes. There are
some terrific ministers, incidentally, in his government. We work with them very closely and we
have significant confidence in a number of those ministers.

There are also some where there are some greater problems, in certain ministries, in terms of
delivery of services and he is well aware of it. As in any election anywhere no one running for
election for president of the country is going to announce who he is moving out til the election is
over.

KIM LANDERS: As for when President Obama will make up his mind about what to do next in
Afghanistan, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says there's no change to the expectation that the
eagerly awaited decision will be announced "in the coming weeks."

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.