Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Today In Non-News: Bob Woodward Reveals Obama Administration Fiercely Debated Afghanistan War Strategy

Famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward has a new book coming out, called "Obama's Wars" where he details the internal arguments discussions inside the Obama Administration with regards to the implementation of a new war strategy in Afghanistan among other things.  Talking Points Memo has a helpful list of the Top 5 Leaks which include the really unfortunate (but completely understandable when read in context) quote by President Obama: "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." 

Aside from that there really is a lot of non-news here, although I predict the "we can absorb a terrorist attack" will take over a news cycle or two depending on how loud the fake outrage is over at Faux News or if Sarah Palin decides to tweet her "refudiation."

Check out the list of Top 5 Leaks via TPM below:

1. Obama set July 2011 withdrawal start date to keep support from Democrats

The New York Times details parts of the book suggesting that the Afghanistan decision was considered with a political lens.

The most telling quote from the book is one Woodward reports that Obama told to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The Times reports that Obama was asked if his withdrawal date was firm:
"I have to say that," Mr. Obama replied. "I can't let this be a war without end, and I can't lose the whole Democratic Party."
The Times also reports that Obama said he has "two years with the public on this," meaning he'd lose support without a swift exit strategy.

2. Obama told Defense Secretary Robert Gates he didn't want to spend a decade nation-building in Afghanistan

The Washington Post reports that Obama told Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in October 2009, "I'm not doing 10 years ... I'm not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars."

3. Obama wanted to 'reduce footprint' in 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 says in the book, according to the Washington Post. "It's in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room."

4. Obama says nation could 'absorb' a terrorist attack

From the Post:
During an interview with Woodward in July, 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."
5. The CIA created a secret army

From the Post:
The CIA created, controls and pays for a clandestine 3,000-man paramilitary army of local Afghans, known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams. Woodward describes these teams as elite, well-trained units that conduct highly sensitive covert operations into Pakistan as part of a stepped-up campaign against al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban havens there.
Bonus factoid: The White House likes the book.

According to Politico, which wrote two stories on Woodward's tome, officials believe the portrait is flattering to the president.

A senior administration official told Politico:
The president comes across in the [Afghanistan] review and throughout the decision-making process as a commander-in-chief who is analytical, strategic, and decisive, with a broad view of history, national security, and his role.
Politico also reported that the White House made a calculated decision to work with Woodward.
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