Obama Afghanistan troop surge decision may come soon

The Obama adminstration denied a report that the US already told Britain that it will send around 40,000 more troops. But it also says it's in the decision-making process.

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Speculation is growing that President Barack Obama has neared a decision on whether to significantly boost troop levels in Afghanistan. But he will probably be influenced by top-level officials considering more moderate measures as he debates the weighty decision presented by his top commander there last month: to send 40,000 additional soldiers or risk losing the war.

The administration denied reports by BBC Newsnight that Obama has already told Britain it will send about that many troops, according to the BBC itself.

While saying it was safe to assume "that the BBC will not be the first outlet for such a decision," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs did tell Fox News that the administration is in the "decision-making phase now."

The BBC report followed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's announcement Wednesday that his country will probably send 500 more troops to Afghanistan. The move puzzled European neighbors, who have largely ignored Obama's requests for more NATO involvement in the Afghan war, reported The Christian Science Monitor. It may suggest that Mr. Brown trusts that the US will indeed send more forces.

But just how many troops still appears to be a subject of debate among top administration officials. The New York Times expects that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will sing the same tune in weighing in on Obama's decision. The Times said the two confabbed on Afghanistan policy options over a long private dinner that followed their recent appearance at The George Washington University in Washington.

There is also increasing talk of a "middle path" that could see a troop increase of around 20,000, reported the Los Angeles Times. The debate sounds similar to the one that took place in the run-up to the Iraq War surge, although no one appears to be advocating a troop reduction this time around.

Whatever the decision, Atlantic columnist Robert D. Kaplan says that the White House's public "second-guessing" of its Afghan strategy suggests poor policy coordination.

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