Gibbs says read Woodward's book

Sept. 22, 2010 at 9:55 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Meeting documents indicate U.S. President Obama pushed military advisers for an exit plan for the Afghan war, but never got one, a book by Bob Woodward says.

Woodward's new book, "Obama's Wars," says Obama, given only options requiring a significant troop buildup, finally developed his own strategy that sought to limit U.S. involvement while avoiding talk of victory, The Washington Post reported.

"This needs to be a plan about how we're going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan," Obama was quoted as telling White House aides as he outlined his reasoning behind adding 30,000 troops for a short-term escalation. "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. There cannot be any wiggle room."

Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs Wednesday he doesn't think it's accurate to say the book portrays the president as constantly at odds with the U.S. military leadership.

"I mean, I don't -- I hope people will read the book and not read what somebody might have thought was the book," Gibbs told reporters. "I will say I think that the book portrays a thoughtful, vigorous policy process that led us to a strategy that gives us the best chance at achieving our objectives and goals in Afghanistan."

The book says Obama rejected the military's request for 40,000 troops as part of a huge mission with no foreseeable end, telling Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in October 2009, "I'm not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars."

Gibbs said he thought there was "a robust discussion about how important it is and in our national interest not to become involved in something in Afghanistan that was unlimited or open-ended."

"The president was making an argument in our national interest that if we are -- we have watched empire after empire, if you will, get into Afghanistan without a way out," Gibbs said. "The president was not going to repeat that exercise and hand to his successor a strategy that was as poorly conceived as the one we inherited when we got here."

"Obama's Wars" is the 16th book by Woodward, a Washington Post associate editor. Woodward's reporting with Carl Bernstein on the Watergate cover-up and the fall of President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s that led to the bestselling book "All the President's Men."

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