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Obama Gathers With Hill Leaders to Discuss Afghanistan

President Barack Obama on Tuesday afternoon is performing the “Congressional outreach— phase of his Afghanistan policy review, gathering with some 30 top lawmakers from both parties to allow them to air their views on the way forward.With so many people gathering in the White House State Dining Room, the incentive for posturing may be great, but White House officials believe the meeting will help give the president a sense of what lawmakers want. Those in the room are also likely to be the ones who will steer the debate over funding the war.Obama meets with the lawmakers after holding two sessions with his national security team and with two more coming up this week.The president plans to lay out to Members where the review stands and then take questions.“The president has and wants to hear from all of those that are involved in decisions about protecting our homeland, keeping our country safe, as well as the deployment of our men and women in uniform,— White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. “And, obviously, Congress plays an important and significant role in that, and this is part of talking to them about this process.—Obama has raised the level of his public effort on national security, with the White House publicly touting top-secret meetings on Afghanistan and Obama’s search for advice.The president earlier Tuesday traveled to the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va., to pump up the people there. “I wanted to come here today and take a few minutes just to deliver a simple message — and I delivered it inside, and that is the message of thanks — to say thank you from me, who use your product each and every day to make some very tough decisions, and to thank you on behalf of the American people,— Obama said.Amid talk that Obama might circumscribe the mission in the Afghanistan, the White House was eager to point out what it claims should already have been clear — that a wholesale withdrawal is not on the table.“The president’s going to make a decision — popular or unpopular — based on what’s in the best interests of the country,— Gibbs said.

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