World News

Obama seeks to control damage from Afghan war leak

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday sought to control damage from an explosive leak of Afghan war documents, saying he was concerned about the disclosure but it revealed little that was not already known.

Defending his strategy for the unpopular war after the unauthorized release of some 91,000 classified reports, Obama insisted the leak underscored the need to stick to his approach and he urged Congress to approve critical additional funds for the war effort.

“While I’m concerned about the disclosure of sensitive information from the battlefield that could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations, the fact is, these documents don’t reveal any issues that haven’t already informed our public debate on Afghanistan,” Obama told reporters after a meeting with congressional leaders.

The Obama administration has scrambled in response to the leak of military records that painted a grim picture of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and raised new doubts about key ally Pakistan.

The release was expected to fuel uncertainty in the U.S. Congress about the war, as Obama sends 30,000 more soldiers into the battle to break the Taliban insurgency.

The documents, made public by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, detail allegations that U.S. forces sought to cover up civilian deaths as well as U.S. concern that Pakistan secretly aided Taliban militants even as it took billions of dollars in U.S. aid.

The documents, a collection of field intelligence and threat reports from before Obama ordered the troop surge in December, illustrated the Pentagon’s bleak assessment of the war amid deteriorating security and a strengthening Taliban.

Obama said the reports “point to the same challenges that led me to conduct an extensive review of our policy last fall.”

“For seven years, we failed to implement a strategy adequate to the challenge in this region, the region from which the 9/11 attacks were waged and other attacks against the United States and our friends and allies have been planned,” Obama said.

“That’s why we’ve substantially increased our commitment there, insisted on greater accountability from our partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan, developed a new strategy that can work and put in place a team, including one of our finest generals, to execute that plan,” he said.

“Now we have to see that strategy through and, as I told the leaders, I hope the House will act today to join the Senate, which voted unanimously in favour of this funding, to ensure that our troops have the resources they need and that we’re able to do what’s necessary for our national security.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Paul Simao