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Obama at Odds With Advisers on Afghan Exit Strategy, Woodward Book Reports

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Frustrated that his top military advisers failed to provide him an exit plan for Afghanistan, President Obama crafted his own strategy, according to a new book by Bob Woodward.

In "Obama's Wars" -- Woodward's meeting-by-meeting account of the 2009 Afghan strategy review -- the president stressed that the plan to add 30,000 troops in a short-term escalation "needs to be . . . about how we're going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan. Everything we're doing has to be focused on how we're going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It's in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room."

Obama rejected the military's request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. "I'm not doing 10 years," he told Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "I'm not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars." After much delay and apparent deliberation, Obama announced his strategy in an address at West Point last December.

President Obama, Afghanistan strategyThe book, due out on Sept. 27 from Simon & Schuster, portrays Obama's moves as occurring amid warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. In an interview with Woodward last summer, the president said, "We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger."

In its own story on the book, the Post says that most of it "centers on the strategy review, and the dissension, distrust and infighting that consumed Obama's national security team as it was locked in a fierce and emotional struggle over the direction, goals, timetable, troop levels and the chances of success for a war that is almost certain to be one of the defining events of this presidency."

Woodward writes that Obama was at odds with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command during the review. Petraeus is now the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan. National Security Adviser James L. Jones is quoted as privately referring to Obama's political aides as "the water bugs," the "Politburo," the "Mafia," or the "campaign set."

Richard Holbrooke, the president's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is quoted as saying that Obama's strategy "can't work," according to a New York Times story on the book. As further indication of the tensions within the highest circles of the planning team, Vice President Joe Biden is quoted calling Holbrooke "the most egotistical bastard I've ever met," and a number of administration officials expressed contempt for James Jones, the Times said.

The book also reports that a secret 3,000-man paramilitary army of Afghans, created and controlled by the CIA, is conducting operations against al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban strongholds in Pakistan. Obama authorized the elite corps as part of a campaign against safe havens in the Afghan war.

"We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan," Obama is quoted as saying at an Oval Office meeting on Nov. 25, 2009. Creating a more secure Afghanistan is imperative, the president said, "so the cancer doesn't spread" there.

Obama's military advisers, including later-ousted Gen. Stanley McChrystal, pushed for a 40,000-troop surge as part of a plan similar to what Petraeus had developed for Iraq. Petraeus took Obama's decision to send in 30,000 troops as a personal repudiation, Woodward writes. After McChrystal's dismissal as head of operations in Afghanistan, Petraeus holds the reins. He offered Woodward a pessimistic assessment of U.S. prospects for success:

"You have to recognize also that I don't think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It's a little bit like Iraq, actually. . . . This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives."

Other revelations in Woodward's book include:

- The National Security Agency has increased the speed at which intercepted communications can be turned around into useful information for intelligence analysts.

- A classified exercise in May showed that the government was woefully unprepared to deal with a nuclear terrorist attack in the United States. The scenario involved the detonation of a small, crude nuclear weapon in Indianapolis.

- Afghan President Hamid Karzai was diagnosed as manic depressive, according to U.S. intelligence reports.
Filed Under: Afghanistan

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266 Comments

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maryj0124

We need to exit from the Afgan war immedately and bring our troops back to the US to focus on protecting American soil and its people...

November 10 2010 at 9:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
steve812

President Hamid Karzai is as useless as Yasser Arafat was. We wined and dined Arafat for decades and got nothing. Karzai needs to go and the Afghan people need to show that they want to help become a free nation. So far this has not happened. Obama has no b**ls and is scared of his own shadow. He is a really poor Commander in Chief. We either need to commit to Afghanistan or get out and secure our own country and borders. We don't need to fight the rest of the worlds battles. Other countries show no interest in combating anything as long as we foot the campaign. NATO(No Additional Troops Offered) is as useless as the UN. Let's pull back and rethink our strategy and for sure we need to get rid of Obama, Reid and Pelosi. Take back America!

September 22 2010 at 11:39 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
ktownsmarty

I am not surprised at all that Obama said that We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger. I wonder, do you think the families of the 9/11 victims believe we can absorb another attack? I think one attack is one too many. We are all very lucky that President Bush was in office when 9/11 happened. If Obama was in office all that would have been done is a lot of talk and speeches saying what he thinks the people want to hear. Nothing this man does or says surprises me at all any more. This man is a fantastic at giving speeches; however I have yet to see him do anything to help the people of our Country.

September 22 2010 at 11:34 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
amercit

Other Countries and the UN are always bashing our American Capitalism, but they are quick to put their hands out to get some of our capitalist money to run their countries,or pay for their wars or cleanup and rebuild after a disaster.

September 22 2010 at 6:59 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
nflamingo

As long as there is corruption in governments, the war will go on. We give other countries money to aid them in fighting against the bad guys............but where is the money? In the pockets of corruption?

September 22 2010 at 6:25 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
amercit

Sure Obama is playing politics with the war on terror, the healthcare bill was crammed thru for political reasons, just like the borders are not being secured by this Administration because of political reasons(vote buying)and job bills are passed for political reasons(Buying off the unions). Everything this Administration does is done for Political Advantages and Political Agendas to Further the power of the Dem Party. But they pat us on the back and tell us they are doing it for us, the American people. And they think we are buying it.

September 22 2010 at 5:12 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
HARRY MORRIS

Shortly following my arrival in Vietnam in 1970 (25th Infantry Division), and extensive contact with scores of Vietnamese) it was abundantly clear that Kennedy/Johnson, Nixon and the congress had involved us in a disasterous and pointless adventure that ultimately cost the lives of tens of thousands of Amearicans, hundreds of thusands of Vietnamese, and billions of American treasure. Then along acme Bush 11, a man composed of equal parts of ignorance and arrogance and involved America in "a war of choice" in Iraq, sacrificing the lives of more thousands of Americans, billions of dollars, and the death or displacement of a hundred times more Iraqis that had Saddam. He left our armed forces battered, and stuck in a quagmire in Afghanistan as bad, if not worse than Vietnam. Now Obama has denounced Nation Building, which unfortunately appears to included America. Is it not perhaps time we do-figuratively-what the British did to Washington DC in the War of 1812? Palin and Beck to the rescue assisted by Christine O'Donnell. God help our poor grandchildren. They will inherit the cylcone of political greed and incompetence of a democracy convulsing in in its death throes.

September 22 2010 at 5:06 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
vallesula

Rest assured, you could let Newt,Palin, Romeny or whom-ever turns you on, we shall be in afghanistan doe at least a generation - we're already half way there.

September 22 2010 at 4:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
usrt66

obama knows everything so why should he listen to or heed the advice of any of his Advisors when he can listen to the advice of his cronies instead. Oh, yeah, thats right. We are in a mess both here and abroad because he failed to listen to the experts and listened to his cronies.

September 22 2010 at 4:34 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
vallesula

Obama should have gone with his gut instincts on Afghanistan, bring home the troops and used the last remaining dollars in the Soc. Sec lock box to rebuild our decaying infrastructure. Trouble is, our military industrial complex carry's too much political clout - our parents generation should have heeded president IKE warnings during his farewell speach to the nation. Contrary to whether Obama wants to do 10 yrs or not, it's where we shall be for the next generation or until our nation is rendered broke - it happened to the Soviet Union and the British Empire before us ( in Afghanistan ).

September 22 2010 at 4:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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