DOD: Obama to decide U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan soon

Pentagon officials expect President Obama to decide “in a relatively short period of time” how many U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan after 2014.

Pentagon press secretary George Little gave that timeline in Wednesday’s morning press gaggle, but added that the more eagerly anticipated number -- the expected pace of the drawdown in Afghanistan this year -- was still unsettled.

“We’re not there yet,” Little said. “The real focus, at this point, is on the post-2014 enduring presence number.”

Pentagon officials have said for months that the U.S. first wanted to determine what the so-called “enduring presence” of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 would look like before determining how to get there.

For some, that may sound like the definition of putting the cart before the horse. But not at the Pentagon, where Little said the “glide slope,” or pace of troop exits from Afghanistan through 2014, should be dictated in part by what the president wants to leave in place after in 2014.

Little said that Gen. John Allen, the International Security Assistance Force commander in Kabul, has passed his recommendations to the Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, but there are not yet plans for any troop announcements. However, speculation has turned to next week, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai is scheduled to visit Washington. According to the Wall Street Journal, Karzai departs for the U.S. on Monday.