The New Afghan Strategy Roll Out Begins

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A little before 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, a reporter for Scripps Howard, who had drawn weekend pool duty, sent his colleagues in the White House press corps a note: “WH press has no details as to how POTUS spent the day, except to say that he spent it at the White House.” With that, a full lid was called for the night.

The mystery of President Obama’s no-golf Sunday was solved Monday morning, when White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gathered the press in his office. (No, the Salahis did not sneak in to attend.)

President Obama, Gibbs said, had given new orders for a new strategy on Afghanistan Sunday, Gibbs said, in a 5 p.m. Oval Office meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman James Cartwright, U.S. Central Command Commander David Petraeus, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and National Security Adviser Jim Jones.

What those orders are remain a closely guarded secret, but the circle of knowledge has steadily expanded. At 6 p.m. on Sunday, Obama held a secure video teleconference with Afghan Commander Stanley McChrystal and the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry. On Monday, Obama planned to describe the plan to a number of allies, including French President Nicholas Sarkozy, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Russian President Dimitri Medvedev and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

More briefings of key members of congress and other stakeholders, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, are planned. But the rest of the world will likely have to wait until Tuesday night, when Obama has planned a prime-time address for 8 p.m. EST at the West Point Military Academy in New York.

Sensitive to the notion that foreign leaders will know the president’s plans before the American people do, Gibbs said that Obama is not going into great detail about troop numbers in his discussions with foreign leaders. “When you call the embassy of France,” said Gibbs, “they won’t have the number either.”