U.S. envoy to Afghanistan warns on more troops: reports

WASHINGTON Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:55pm EST

U.S. Army soldier Ryan Branklel of 3/509 infantry 4BDE25ID Task Force Geronimo fires his weapon during a training session at FOB Tillman, Afghanistan, November 11, 2009 REUTERS/Bruno Domingos

U.S. Army soldier Ryan Branklel of 3/509 infantry 4BDE25ID Task Force Geronimo fires his weapon during a training session at FOB Tillman, Afghanistan, November 11, 2009

Credit: Reuters/Bruno Domingos

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, a former military commander there, has expressed deep concern to Washington about sending more U.S. troops, the Washington Post and The New York Times reported on Thursday.

The papers, quoting senior unnamed U.S. officials, said Ambassador Karl Eikenberry had sent classified cables in the past week expressing strong reservations about President Hamid Karzai's erratic behavior and corruption in his government.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a visit to Manila that the United States was concerned about corruption and poor governance in Afghanistan but she would not confirm the reports about Eikenberry.

The reports of Eikenberry's dispatches come as President Barack Obama is considering boosting U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, where Karzai was returned to power last week after a fraud-tainted election.

General Stanley McChrystal, U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has asked for 40,000 extra troops that he says are needed to avert failure.

Nearly 68,000 U.S. and 40,000 allied troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan.

Facing increasing U.S. public skepticism over the eight-year-old war, Obama pushed his Afghan war council on Wednesday for revisions in strategy options presented to him.

During the meeting, Obama asked Eikenberry about his concerns, the New York Times quoted officials as saying.

The paper said Obama was considering four options ranging from sending from 10,000 to 40,000 troop and wanted to know how long it would take to see results and be able to withdraw.

The U.S. embassy in Kabul declined to comment on the reports.

"We never comment on confidential communications between the ambassador and the president," an embassy spokeswoman said.

The White House said on Wednesday that Obama had yet to make a decision on troop levels and that he was expected to continue deliberations during a nine-day trip to Asia starting on Thursday.

His press secretary says a decision is still weeks away.

(Writing by Sandra Maler, additional reporting by Peter Graff in Kabul and David Alexander in Manila, editing by Jon Boyle)

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