NOVEMBER 13 2009 18:03h
Obama was asked yet again when he would make a decision on deploying up to 40,000 extra troops to Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama Friday promised a "transparent" decision soon on whether to send thousands more US troops to Afghanistan, after media leaks hinted at policy rifts among his advisors.
Obama was dogged by questions over his Afghan strategy review as he launched a tour of Asia and edged up to a decision on reinforcing the 68,000 US troops that will be fighting in Afghanistan by the end of the year.
New revelations included a leaked cable sent by the US ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry, which expressed serious doubts about sending more troops before Hamid Karzai's government tackles rampant corruption.
That and other disclosures prompted Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to instruct everyone with any knowledge of the process, as well as those leaking details of the probe into the Fort Hood massacre last week to "shut up."
Obama was asked again when he would make a decision on deploying up to 40,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, after talks in Tokyo with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
- The decision will be made soon, it will be one that is fully transparent to the American people - Obama said, as political perils back home intruded on his attempt to reassert US power in Asia.
Obama said that when his decision was made, after a review involving top military brass and national security aides, he would ensure Americans understood - exactly what we are doing and why we are doing it. -
His spokesman Robert Gibbs meanwhile rebuked Obama critics, including Republicans who have accused the president of "dithering", and again accused the the last administration of underfunding the war.
- Making a fast decision that is wrong, I have yet to be convinced is in the national security interests of the United States - Gibbs said.
Obama's spokesman also warned journalists away from sources who have variously confided in recent weeks that the president was closing in on one option or another.
- The president is taking his time to get this decision right - Gibbs said.
And Obama will not announce his next move in the eight year old war before he returns to the United States from the four-nation Asian tour on November 19.
He will likely need another meeting of national security advisors and military before deciding, aides said.
Eikenberry's leaked cables exploded like a political bombshell in Washington.
A retired army general who commanded US forces in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007, Eikenberry detailed serious concerns in classified cables leaked to The Washington Post and The New York Times.
He reportedly expressed reservations about Karzai's erratic behavior and warned against sending more American troops until the Afghan leader gets a grip on the corruption and incompetence in his administration.
The ambassador's position apparently put him at odds with Afghan war commander General Stanley McChrystal, who wants more than 40,000 extra US troops and has warned that without them the mission is likely to fail.
Gates suggested Thursday that Obama was seeking a compromise strategy that would show commitment to Afghanistan while making clear American troops would not stay indefinitely.
Obama is said to have been presented with a series of options on Afghanistan, three of which envisage reinforcements ranging from 20,000 to 40,000 troops and a fourth that has an undisclosed military element.
On the way to Asia, Obama stopped off in Alaska, and promised troops at Elmendorf air base a "clear mission" if he sent them to war.
Germany announced 120 extra soldiers for Afghanistan on Friday but refused to even consider sending more before an international conference in early 2010 on the war.
Britain called on other NATO allies to boost the alliance's troop numbers by 5,000.