News outlets that got a sneak peek Bob Woodward’s latest book found that President Obama fretted that, without a timetable for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, he would lose support from his Democratic base. Woodward’s Obama’s Wars, out Monday, reveals an administration sparring over policy for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an Obama shaken by the potential of a terrorist attack and a secret CIA army helping fight terrorism in Pakistan.
Woodward, who wrote three books about President George W. Bush, interviewed administration officials, Cabinet members, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for the book. Obama’s Wars focuses mostly on Afghanistan and Obama’s decision to send a surge of 30,000 troops there as he pulled combat troops from Iraq.
Here are the top 5 revelations out today.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.