There are increasing signs the administration is wrapping up its Afghanistan strategy review and planning a rollout toward the end of the week beginning November 16, immediately after President Obama and other top officials return from Asia.
Reliable sources tell The Cable that the review has entered its final stages, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Advisor Jim Jones now taking the lead and putting on the final touches.
Today, Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke cancelled a planned speaking event scheduled for Wednesday, November 18, at the Women's Foreign Policy Group, "due to unforeseen changes in the speaker's schedule," a group representative said.
And the rest of the President's team is back in town on Thursday, November 19.
The administration sent a team to Brussels this week to consult with all 43 member nations of the International Security Assistance Force, including all 28 NATO nations.
"Their trip will serve to both brief allies on where our efforts stand and to hear their comments and questions about the review," said Michael Hammer, spokesman for the National Security Council.
Meanwhile, certain embassy representatives in Washington have started to receive notice that they will be "consulted" about the Afghan strategy review soon, which some took as a signal that the review was pretty much done and the process of briefing it to stakeholders was beginning.
Hammer said that consultations have been ongoing since the start of the review and cautioned not to read too much into any particular set of meetings. But sources both inside the government and in the larger diplomatic community in Washington are now standing on high alert, preparing for a rollout many feel is imminent.
"We've all been waiting for that call," one Western European diplomat said.