Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Obama's Wars" Exposes Administration Divisions Over Afghanistan Surge

"Obama's Wars," a new book by journalist Bob Woodward (left), exposes the divisions within the administration over escalating the war in Afghanistan:

...“Obama’s Wars”...depicts an administration deeply torn over the war in Afghanistan even as the president agreed to triple troop levels there amid suspicion that he was being boxed in by the military. Mr. Obama’s top White House adviser on Afghanistan and his special envoy for the region are described as believing the strategy will not work.

The president concluded from the start that “I have two years with the public on this” and pressed advisers for ways to avoid a big escalation, the book says. “I want an exit strategy,” he implored at one meeting. Privately, he told Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to push his alternative strategy opposing a big troop buildup in meetings, and while Mr. Obama ultimately rejected it, he set a withdrawal timetable because, “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”

But Mr. Biden is not the only one who harbors doubts about the strategy’s chances for success. Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the president’s Afghanistan adviser, is described as believing that the president’s review did not “add up” to the decision he made. Richard C. Holbrooke, the president’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is quoted saying of the strategy that “it can’t work.”

The toughest critics of the surge were three generals in civilian posts:

The Woodward book...consistently shows the three officers - retired Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, retired Gen. James L. Jones and Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute - embroiled in heated disputes with the brass.

...In early November 2009, Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, drafted a cable that was sharply critical of the military's counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, saying it was likely to both "increase Afghan dependency" on the United States and force the U.S. government to incur "vastly increased costs."

Jones, Obama's national security adviser, similarly was able to use his contacts in the Pentagon and knowledge of how the military's vast bureaucracy functions to question the Pentagon's requests for forces.

Woodward's book is appearing at a time when a helicopter crash that killed nine NATO members made 2010 the deadliest year of the war for coalition forces since its beginning in 2001. According to, a Web site that tracks military casualties, there have been 532 deaths this year (as of this writing).

No comments: