Senior aides have told the Associated Press that the emerging thinking suggests the president would be very unlikely to favour a large military increase of the kind advocated by Gen McChrystal.
They also say that although Mr Obama's developing strategy on the Taliban would "not tolerate their return to power" in Afghanistan, he would be prepared to accept a role for the militant group in some regions.
While still dangerous, the Taliban is considered an indigenous movement with local aims, rather than a transnational militant group like al-Qaeda, whose eradication was the aim of the US-led invasion eight years ago.
"They're not the same type of group," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
"It's certainly not backed up by any of the intelligence."
When asked later about working with elements of the Taliban, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "We are looking at every possible question that can be raised, including the one that you just asked, in order to determine the smartest approach."
Mr Obama has said the strategy in Afghanistan must be agreed before a decision can be made on troop numbers.
Isaf's major combat teams in Afghanistan
Isaf's provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan
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