US President Barack Obama won't walk away from the war in Afghanistan, the White House declared Monday as Obama faced tough decisions - and intense administration debate - over choices that could help define his presidency in his first year as commander in chief.
Obama's defense secretary, Robert Gates, appealed Monday for calm - and for time and privacy for the president to come to a decision.
Obama may take weeks to decide whether to add more troops, but the idea of pulling out isn't on the table as a way to deal with a war nearing its ninth year, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.
"I don't think we have the option to leave. That's quite clear," Gibbs said.
Gates said Monday that Obama needs elbow room to make strategy decisions about the war - as the internal White House debate goes increasingly public.
"It is important that we take our time to do all we can to get this right," Gates said at an Army conference. "In this process, it is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations - civilians and military alike - provide our best advice to the president candidly but privately."