COPENHAGEN, Denmark — President Barack Obama held an unannounced meeting here on Friday with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, his Afghanistan commander, to discuss a possible change in strategy and a proposed troop buildup in the eight-year-old war.
McChrystal flew in from London, where he had given a speech Thursday affirming the need for a military buildup in Afghanistan. He joined Obama on Air Force One at the Copenhagen airport for 25 minutes after the president finished his presentation to the International Olympic Committee on behalf of Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Games.
It was the men's first meeting in person since McChrystal took over all U.S. and NATO forces on the ground in June. They spoke only once after that, in a videoconference call in August, until this week, when the general joined a video conference with the president to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Obama spoke with the general by phone on Wednesday and suggested they meet in Copenhagen.
McChrystal has requested as many as 40,000 more troops for the effort in Afghanistan and issued a dire report warning that without more forces the mission there would fail. Obama already sent an additional 21,000 troops earlier this year, for a total of 68,000 by this fall, and the prospect of even more reinforcements prompted a wholesale review of his policy.
That Obama had not talked with McChrystal since his report was submitted at the end of August generated criticism from some who thought he was too distant from his own top commander. The White House argued that the president did not want to bypass the chain of command regularly and got plenty of information through weekly meetings with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Obama met with Gates, Mullen and the rest of his national security team on Wednesday, the second of five planned meetings to chart a new course in the war in Afghanistan. Some, including the vice president, advocate a scaled-back force with a new focus on hunting al-Qaida cells.
McChrystal has bluntly said that approach would not work.