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Obama advisers split on Afghan war
A new book by veteran American journalist Bob Woodward paints a deeply divided Obama team on Afghanistan war strategy
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2010 18:43 GMT
A new book claims that General David Petraeus feels shut out by the Obama administration [AFP]

A new book says that Barack Obama, the US president, struggled to craft a unified Afghan war strategy amid political infighting and fierce differences between the White House and the Pentagon.

President Obama rejected any US effort for "long-term nation-building," according to the book "Obama's Wars" by veteran reporter Bob Woodward. The book is to be released on Monday.

The book reveals internal fissures, distrust and infighting among the White House national security team as it debated every aspect of the Afghanistan war, a conflict seen as defining Obama's entire presidency.

With access to administration officials and even Obama himself, Woodward paints a picture of a White House national security team consumed by dissension as the president seeks a way to extricate the
US military from 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," Obama is quoted as saying in the book, according to the Washington Post, where
Woodward worked for decades.

"It's in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room," Obama is reported to have said. "This needs to be a plan about how we're going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan."

Obama decided last December to increase US troops by 30,0000 to battle Afghan insurgents. As part of that strategy, he set a July 2011 date to start a gradual withdrawal of American troops.

The president rejected a Pentagon request for 40,000 troops, Woodward said, chronicling Obama's meetings with Robert Gates, US defence secretary, and Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, in the months leading up to the December surge.

"I'm not doing 10 years," he told Gates and Clinton in a late October 2009 meeting. "I'm not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars," he is quoted as saying, according to the Post.

Withdrawal politics

On the July 2011 withdrawal deadline, Obama appeared to base the calculation partly on domestic political support. "I have to say that," Obama told Lindsey Graham, a US Republican senator, when asked about the date. "I can't let this be a war without end, and I can't lose the whole Democratic Party."

But while some Democrats complained that his timeline was too vague, the Republicans objected that it was too specific.

The president's overall plan was ultimately decried by both the right and the left of the American political spectrum: the Republicans opposed any idea of a timeline for a pull-out while his own Democrats warned of a quagmire without end.

The surge eventually rose by 33,000, with Obama granting Gates authority to also send in 3,000 medics, intelligence analysts, bomb disposal specialists and other support troops to supplement US
combat forces.

The deployment, accelerating the now nine-year-long war against Taliban fighters, brought the number of US forces in the country to more than 100,000.

Source:
Agencies
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