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Book Says Obama Administration Divided On Afghan Strategy

'Obama's Wars' is a new book by Bob Woodward
'Obama's Wars' is a new book by Bob Woodward
Kent Klein

A new book says U.S. President Barack Obama's top advisers have had stronger disagreements on the Afghan war strategy than previously acknowledged.  Some high-ranking officials are said to have questioned whether the plan will succeed.  

Bob Woodward, an associate editor at the Washington Post, interviewed President Obama and his advisers about the process of deciding on a policy for the Afghan war.

Woodward's book Obama's Wars is to be released next Monday.  Excerpts were printed Wednesday in the Post and The New York Times.

The excerpts say Mr. Obama was calling for an exit strategy in Afghanistan, with no long-term nation-building.  They say military leaders only offered plans for deploying larger numbers of U.S. troops.

The president decided to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, fewer than the military had requested, and announced a deadline to begin withdrawing U.S. forces in July, 2011.

The U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, was quoted as saying the strategy would not work.

The excerpted accounts also detail deep personal differences between some administration officials.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs spoke with reporters aboard the presidential plane Wednesday.  He downplayed the divisions revealed in the excerpts.

"I think that the book portrays a thoughtful, vigorous policy process that led us to a strategy to get the best chance of achieving our objectives and goals in Afghanistan," said  Robert Gibbs.

Over several months, Mr. Obama held numerous meetings with his national security advisers to discuss possible Afghan strategies.

Gibbs said the fact that the advisers had disagreements should not be a surprise.

"I cannot imagine that any option that the president looked at would not have engendered some debate," he said. "That is the nature of this process.  The process was, over the course of 12 or 13 meetings, a pretty public one."

A Pentagon spokesman said he had not read the book, and would not comment on press accounts.  He said, however, the Defense Department is fully focused on implementing the president's strategy in Afghanistan.  

According to the Washington Post, the book also reports that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has a 3,000-member paramilitary army consisting mostly of Afghans.  U.S. officials Wednesday confirmed the existence of that force.

The Associated Press quotes a spokesman for Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai as denying an allegation in another excerpt that the Afghan leader has been diagnosed with manic depression.

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