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Official defends Obama ahead of revelations in Woodward book

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Journalist Bob Woodward reveals deep rifts on Afghanistan strategy
  • A frustrated Obama sought an exit plan, the book says
  • Official defends Obama as analytical and desicive

Washington (CNN) -- A senior administration official defended President Barack Obama on Wednesday as a decisive commander-in-chief ahead of next week's release of a book that reveals an administration deeply divided over U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.

"Obama's Wars," by veteran Washington journalist Bob Woodward, describes a frustrated president who urgently sought an exit plan, only to be provided with options that involved increased U.S. troop levels, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. Woodward is associate editor of the newspaper.

Woodward takes readers behind the scenes in the Obama White House through accounts of closed-door strategy sessions, private conversations, internal memos and hours of interviews with key players.

"This needs to be a plan about how we're going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan," Obama is quoted telling his aides as he agreed to a short-term escalation of 30,000 troops, according to the Post.

"Everything we're doing has to be focused on how we're going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It's in our national security interest," Obama said, according to the newspaper.

In a October 2009 meeting with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama said: "I'm not doing 10 years. "I'm not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars."

A senior administration official Wednesday downplayed the rifts portrayed in the book, slated for release Monday.

"The President comes across in the 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," the official said.

The official said Obama wanted concise answers to questions about the capacities of the Afghan government and whether counterinsurgency strategy could be effective there. The official said Obama wanted to know exactly what kind of U.S. presence was required and what could realistically be achieved in the immediate future.

Woodward reveals a president greatly at odds with top military advisers Gen. David Petraeus and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Woodward writes that dissent turned into name calling on both sides, the Post reported. At one point, Petraeus felt shut out and told an aide that he considered Obama advisers Dabvid Axlerod a "complete spin doctor."

Among other disclosures in Woodward's book, according to the Post:

-- The U.S. government was unprepared to deal with a nuclear terrosrist attack on American soil. Obama told Woodward in an interview: "When I go down the list of things I have to worry about all the time, that is at the top, because that's one where you can't afford any mistakes."

-- And that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was diagnosed as manic depressive, Woodward says, citing U.S. intelligence reports. "He's on his meds, he's off his meds," Woodward quotes U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry as saying.