White House: ‘No decision imminent’ on Afghan troop levels

The White House said Tuesday that “there is no decision imminent” on U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, on the heels of reports that the president was considering pulling all American soldiers from the country following a strained conversation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

{mosads}White House press secretary Jay Carney said that evaluating troop levels in the country was “part of a process that is not focused on troop numbers, but policy objectives, and how we best do that.”

“There is no decision imminent, and there need not be,” he said

He also disputed the report, in The New York Times, that a tense conversation with Karzai had led President Obama to look more seriously at a complete withdrawal, calling the story a “misreading of the situation.”

“We publicly said [eliminating a military presence by 2014] was available to us six months ago,” Carney said. “The suggestion a video conference call was determinative of anything was incorrect.”

Still, Carney acknowledged there had “long been ups and downs” in conversations with Karzai, and said he did not believe the leaders had spoken since the teleconference.

“We’ve had disagreements in the past and we’ll have them in the future, no question,” Carney said.

But the White House spokesman said there remained “great consensus” about “the need for a stable, democratic Afghanistan.”

According to the Times report, Karzai accused the United States of attempting to negotiate its own peace deal with the Taliban and abandoning the Afghan government. The charges were echoes of past statements by the Afghan leader, but it was reportedly the first time he had voiced them directly to Obama.

Obama was reportedly upset by the accusation, pointing to the loss of American soldiers in the country, although security experts cautioned that the White House might be using the threat of total withdrawal to pressure Karzai in negotiations.

Earlier Tuesday, an administration official said there was “nothing new” to deliberations about completely removing troops from the country, pointing to a briefing in January during which deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the White House “wouldn’t rule out any option” on post-2014 troop levels.

“The U.S. does not have an inherent objective of ‘X’ number of troops in Afghanistan,” Rhodes said at the time.

Obama is scheduled to meet with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Tuesday afternoon in the White House Situation Room.

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