WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama faces a "pivotal moment" as he mulls whether to send more troops to Afghanistan and is unlikely to announce his decision until after a trip to Asia, officials said Monday.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama has still not made up his mind, despite mounting press reports to the contrary.
Obama leaves Thursday for his first presidential trip to Asia, a visit which lasts until November 19 and will see him take in Japan, Singapore for an international summit, China and South Korea.
He leaves for Asia amid mounting pressure to unveil the results of a deep policy review aimed at drawing up the lines of future US policy in Afghanistan, now that President Hamid Karzai has been elected to a new term.
"We're at a pivotal moment, and I think the president wants to ensure that he has all that he needs and has heard from all that have equities in this, in order to make a decision moving forward," Gibbs said Monday.
After attending Tuesday's memorial service for the 13 killed in a shooting spree at the US military base Fort Hood, Texas, Obama will again meet his top commanders on Wednesday in the situation room to discuss Afghanistan.
Top US and NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal has asked for some 40,000 extra troops to fight a deadly insurgency by Taliban militants and Al-Qaeda linked groups in Afghanistan.
Gibbs said he did not know when Obama would announce his decision: "I've not been told when it's going to be, but I think it is doubtful that it will happen prior to Thursday," he said.
But he said the US president would continue to mull the issue during his trip, and would discuss Afghanistan with Asian leaders.
Japan's new government has said it will end a naval refueling mission supporting the US-led operations in Afghanistan in January.
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