In his first public comment on the leak of tens of thousands of Afghanistan war documents, President Obama says the material serves to underscore the importance of the strategy he launched for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The president spoke as Congress neared final action on war funding legislation.
In his statement in the White House Rose Garden, the president referred to media reports about the 91,000 documents disclosed by the WikiLeaks website.
Mr. Obama said he is concerned that the disclosure of sensitive battlefield information could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations.
But the information, he added, did not reveal anything that was not known, and merely points to the kind of challenges that led him to conduct his extensive review of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy last year.
"For 7 years we failed to implement a strategy adequate to the challenge in this region from which 9/11 attacks were waged and other attacks against U.S. and allies have been planned. That is why we substantially increased commitment, insisted on greater accountability from partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan, developed new strategy that can work and put in place a new team including one of our finest generals to execute and we now have to see strategy through," he said.
Mr. Obama had just completed a meeting with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders, talks that included discussion of a nearly $59 billion emergency spending bill debated by the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
About $33 billion of that will go for the U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan ordered by the president as part of his new strategy to seize the momentum from Taliban forces in the nine-year-old conflict.
Democratic leaders faced opposition from anti-war Democrats. Ohio's Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee of California asserted that the leaked documents provide further proof of the futility of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, while there are pressing needs at home.
KUCINICH: "Wake up America. There is unlimited money for war. Money for a corrupt government in Afghanistan. When U.S. money is not going to the Karzai mob's personal use it goes to help the Taliban kill our troops. There is money for a corrupt government in Pakistan which helps the Taliban in Afghanistan kill our troops."
LEE: "Congress cannot continue to write a blank check for a war in Afghanistan that has ultimately made our country less safe."
Tuesday's White House news briefing brought additional questions from the media on the leak controversy directed at the president's spokesman Robert Gibbs.
Responding to a question about U.S. aid to Pakistan, against the background of information in leaked documents suggesting ongoing Pakistani involvement with the Taliban, Gibbs fell back on a response he had given reporters before. "We have tripled the number of troops, and resources, in Afghanistan. We have created a new strategy that include how to deal with Pakistan. So, I'm not here to tell you as I told you yesterday that all our problems are solved, but we are making progress," he said.
Speaking in Baghdad on Tuesday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said the leak of the Afghanistan war documents create what he called a real potential threat to put American lives at risk.