WH denies Afghan decision made, as tensions fare with Pentagon

From CNN Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry
November 9th, 2009

Washington (CNN) – White House National Security Adviser Retired Gen. Jim Jones issued a rare public statement Monday vehemently denying media reports suggesting President Obama has privately decided to send close to 40,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, as tensions between the White House and Pentagon appear to be flaring up over exactly what the president will announce.

“Reports that President Obama has made a decision about Afghanistan are absolutely false,” Jones, who generally keeps a low public profile, said in a prepared statement Monday night. “He has not received final options for his consideration, he has not reviewed those options with his national security team, and he has not made any decisions about resources. Any reports to the contrary are completely untrue and come from uninformed sources.”

The statement was issued shortly after CBS News’ veteran Pentagon Correspondent David Martin reported that Obama has “tentatively decided” to send four more combat brigades to Afghanistan and several thousand more support troops starting early next year. That would bring the total number of new troops to close to the 40,000 figure originally requested by Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Two other senior administration officials flatly told CNN that the CBS report and other similar speculation is false. The Associated Press reported Monday that Obama is “nearing a decision to add tens of thousands more forces to Afghanistan, though not quite the 40,000 sought [by] his top general there.”

The two senior administration officials suggested the information is being leaked by Pentagon sources who are trying to box Obama in by setting public expectations that he will send close to 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan as McChrystal requested.

“People at the Pentagon are trying to force a certain outcome,” one of the senior administration officials told CNN.

Both senior administration officials insisted Obama has not made any decision on troop levels in Afghanistan, noting the President has another meeting with his national security team on Wednesday to receive a final set of recommendations from the Pentagon brass. The senior officials said the president could not possibly make a decision on troop levels before even receiving the Pentagon’s final recommendations.

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday it’s “doubtful” Obama will announce a troop decision before he leaves for a trip to Asia on Thursday. It’s considered unlikely Obama will make such an announcement during his trip to Asia, which is largely focused on economic matters and separate diplomatic issues like North Korea’s nuclear program.

Obama is scheduled to return from Asia on Friday November 20 after stops in Japan, Singapore, China, and South Korea. Officials have suggested the President could announce a troop decision sometime shortly before or after Thanksgiving, though Gibbs has vaguely said the decision will be revealed in “coming weeks” so as not to be pinned down.

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