Woodward spotlights Afghanistan war in “Obama’s Wars”

Called “Obama’s Wars,” Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Bob Woodward’s new book on President Obama focuses on the Afghanistan war and the worldwide battle against terrorism, but not the top issue in the midterm elections — the weak economy.

The book, published by Simon & Schuster hit bookstores September 27, barely three weeks when it was finished and does not put heavy emphasis on the war in Iraq, but dwells on the struggle against the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, an official with knowledge of the work told the Associated Press.

Citing secret meeting notes and documents, the book notes that President Obama urgently looked for a way out of the war in Afghanistan last year, repeatedly pressing his top military advisers for an exit plan that they never gave him.

Frustrated with his military commanders for consistently offering only options that required significantly more troops, Obama finally crafted his own strategy, dictating a classified six-page “terms sheet” that sought to limit U.S. involvement.

Woodward’s book portrays Obama and the White House as barraged by warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and confronted with the difficulty in preventing them.

Speaking of Obama’s plan for Afghanistan as reported by the Guardian on 22 September, Woodward said that in the end Obama constructed his own plan to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan – a compromise between the greater commitment demanded by the military and Biden’s pressure for a much more limited increase. Attached to it was a timeline to begin pulling American forces out and shift responsibility for the fighting to Afghan forces by July 2011.

Obama announced his decision to the national security team late last year in what Woodward describes as a dramatic scene at the White House. Obama passed around a six-page “term paper” of his plan, which not only detailed what the military was expected to achieve and when – it also took the unusual step of laying out what the military was not supposed to do in order to ensure that US commanders did not try and expand the mission by stealth.

Fierce disputes over the plan spread throughout the administration and are said to have continued long after it was announced. Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, is reported to believe that it “can’t work”.

Woodward says that on the other hand, in the coming weeks the Pentagon persisted in trying to change the decision. Obama grew exasperated: “Why do we keep having these meetings?”

The book quotes the president as telling Mullen, Petraeus and Gates: “In 2010, we will not be having a conversation about how to do more. I will not want to hear, ‘We’re doing fine, Mr. President, but we’d be better if we just do more.’ We’re not going to be having a conversation about how to change [the mission] … unless we’re talking about how to draw down faster than anticipated in 2011.”

In his book Obama is quoted as telling White House assistances as he laid out his reasons for adding 30,000 troops in a short-term escalation “This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan,” he added, “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.”

The book generally points to the intricacies that surround US presence in the war in Afghanistan, and in a way shows the need for the people of Afghanistan to have a stable future. The US administration definitely needs to re-think strategies that would work towards achieving this ultimate goal – peace and stability in Afghanistan.

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