Then there was the McClatchy report this weekend:
President Barack Obama is nearing a decision to send more than 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan next year. . . As it now stands, the administration’s plan calls for sending three Army brigades from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. and the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. and a Marine brigade, for a total of as many as 23,000 additional combat and support troops.
Both reports caution that the (reported) decisions are not final. Meanwhile, General Jim Jones, the head of the National Security Council, releases this statement on Monday night, which comes with extra adjectives to make the point (bolding mine):
Reports that President Obama has made a decision about Afghanistan are absolutely false. 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.
So what is going on?
As a White House source told me Monday night, “The President hasn’t received the four options on Afghanistan yet.”
Those options were requested before Halloween, according to the Washington Post. Meanwhile, Obama has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday in the Situation Room to continue discussions about the Afghan strategy. It is an important enough meeting to put off his departure for a trip to Asia, which was also originally scheduled for Wednesday, but has since been pushed back to Thursday since Obama will visit Fort Hood on Tuesday. “It’s safe to say, I think if we’d made a decision, I think we could free up at least part of his Wednesday,” spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a briefing on Monday.
Such is the state of the waiting and guessing game. There are credible people in town who think they know what President Obama is thinking. And Obama has not made any official decision.
One other thing is clear: The timing of all this is less than ideal for the White House. Obama is about to go on a four-nation tour of Asia, and his entire message, as one aide said Monday, is “America is a Pacific nation. It understands the importance of Asia.” All this Afghanistan chatter has become an unwelcome distraction–a focus on a part of Asia literally disconnected from the Pacific Rim. And the chatter is sure to continue, for a week or so more, through repeated press conferences on foreign soil.