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'Obama's Wars' unearths divisions over Afghanistan exit plan

Questions remain after inquiry into article

An Army inquiry into a Rolling Stone magazine article about Gen. Stanley McChrystal has found that it was not the general or senior officers on his staff who made the most egregious comments that led to his abrupt dismissal as the top Afghan commander in June, the New York Times said it learned from Army and Pentagon officials. But the review does not wholly resolve who was responsible for the inflammatory quotes, most of which were anonymous. The Army review has been turned over to a higher-level inquiry by the Pentagon's inspector general. The report has not been released.

CIA runs Afghan force: The CIA has trained and bankrolled a well-paid force of 3,000 elite Afghan paramilitaries for nearly eight years to hunt al-Qaida and the Taliban, the Associated Press says it was told by current and former U.S. officials. Modeled after U.S. special operations forces, the Counterterrorist Pursuit Team was set up in 2002 to penetrate territory controlled by the Taliban and al-Qaida and target militants for interrogations by CIA officials. The Afghan pursuit teams are described in detail in Bob Woodward's new book, Obama's Wars.

Insurgents killed: Insurgents attacked a NATO and Afghan army outpost in Khost province in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, and 25 to 30 of the militants were killed in the resulting skirmish, officials said Wednesday. Gen. Raz Mohmmad Horya Khil, a senior commander of the Afghan National Army in the province, said there were no casualties among NATO or Afghan troops.

Times wires

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's early attempts to seize control of a neglected Afghanistan war yielded a strategy that pleased almost no one and hasn't turned the tide of a conflict nearing its 10th year.

Just how contentious that plan has been, inside the Obama White House as well as outside, is captured in Bob Woodward's new book, Obama's Wars. The account exposes the roots of an Afghanistan exit plan driven more by politics than national security and shows the president worried about losing the support of the public and his party.

"I have two years with the public on this," Obama is quoted as saying at one point.

Obama's Wars reveals that the president's aides were deeply divided over the war even as Obama agreed to nearly triple troop levels in a gamble reminiscent of former President George W. Bush's Iraq war "surge."

"I want an exit strategy," Obama said at one meeting, as he and White House aides groused that the Pentagon brass was boxing him in.

He got one, at least on paper. Obama has said he will begin withdrawing forces in July 2011, an arbitrary date that many in the military see as artificial and perhaps premature.

Privately, Obama told Vice President Joe Biden to push his alternative strategy opposing a big troop buildup in meetings, according to the book.

While Obama ultimately rejected the alternative plan, the book says, he set a withdrawal timetable because, "I can't lose the whole Democratic Party."

Obama's Wars shot to No. 2 on the Amazon bestseller list Wednesday.

Obama was among the people Woodward interviewed for the book. It contains previously classified information, including a secret six-page "terms sheet" that a frustrated Obama dictated himself as he tried to bring the generals to heel. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said divisions were inevitable.

"I can't imagine that any option that the president looked at would not have engendered some debate," he said.

Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters on Wednesday that the Pentagon has no comment because no one has read the book. He said the military is "fully focused on the mission at hand" in Afghanistan.

A NATO spokesman in Afghanistan, German Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, said the strategy is working and will show larger results by the end of this year.

"Let's be humble and modest," Blotz said. "This is work in progress. We need some more time."

The Obama administration plans a review of the strategy in December but no major course correction, senior officials say.

On Hamid Karzai

U.S. intelligence found Afghan President Hamid Karzai was manic-depressive and on drugs for it, Obama's Wars says. In Kabul, Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omar said that assertion is baseless.

'Obama's Wars' unearths divisions over Afghanistan exit plan 09/22/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 22, 2010 9:10pm]
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