WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama could decide how many additional U.S. troops to send to Afghanistan before the country's scheduled November 7 runoff election, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.
Gibbs said he did not know when Obama would make the decision, but left the door open for the president to move forward sooner rather than later.
The comment came as the administration is trying to demonstrate it willingness to work with any legitimate Afghan government regardless of the election outcome.
The upcoming runoff election presents a critical opportunity for Kabul "to reestablish the credibility of its governance," Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry said Wednesday.
Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan.
White House officials are taking pains to show the United States is heeding Afghan President Hamid Karzai's decision not to interfere in the election.
Obama pledged Tuesday that U.S. officials "will continue to work with our (international) partners as well as the Afghan government, however this election turns out."
Gibbs downplayed hints of a rift between Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel over the urgency of Obama's decision on U.S. troop levels.
Emanuel said Sunday that the United States had to determine it had "a credible Afghan partner" first. Gates, however, stated that "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."
–CNN's Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.