WASHINGTON, D.C. - "It is certainly possible" that President Barack Obama could make a decision on how many additional U.S. troops to send to Afghanistan before Afghanistan's runoff election scheduled for November 7th, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.
While Gibbs said he "did not know" when the president would be making his decision, he left the door open for Obama to move forward sooner rather than later.
The comment comes as the administration tries to demonstrate it will work with the Afghan government, no matter what the outcome of the run off election, as long as it is seen as "legitimate" in the eyes of the Afghan people and the international community. White House officials are also taking pains to show the United States is not "interfering" in Afghanistan's elections, as the embattled President Hamid Karzai once warned against.
Tuesday Obama pledged, "moving forward, we will continue to work with our ISAF partners as well as the Afghan government, however this election turns out..."
Gibbs' remarks also come as the White House tries to discredit suggestions there is a rift between Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel over the urgency of Obama's decision on U.S. troop levels.
Sunday Emanuel said the United States had to determine it had "a credible Afghan partner" first. Gates said "we're not just going to sit on our hands, waiting for the outcome of this election and for the emergence of a government in Kabul."
Wednesday Gibbs pointed to new remarks Gates made over the controversy from Tokyo.
"Clearly having a run off, getting that behind us and then moving forward is very important, and I think that having some clarity in that makes a lot of sense because I think it gives us the likelihood of an outcome very quickly. But I think we need to be realistic that the issues of corruption and governance that we are trying to work with the Afghan government on are not going to be solved simply by an outcome of the presidential election," Gates said. "This is going to be a work in progress, an evolutionary effort, and we need to be realistic about that."