US president Barack Obama fought hard but in vain to force the Pentagon to come up with an exit strategy for the deepening war in Afghanistan, a new book has claimed.
Obama's Wars, by former Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, also claims that the President’s difficulties were compounded by fierce disputes within his national security team and the need to deal with an Afghan leader they trusted little and who, according to US intelligence, was a manic depressive.
These are the most striking disclosures of the account, the prime focus of which is on the agonising and protracted policy review that led to the President's December 2009 announcement of a 30,000 troop surge in Afghanistan.
The book is the 16th by Mr Woodward, who has become the de facto court historian of every presidency since Ronald Reagan. It gives a blow-by-blow, memo-by-memo account of the deliberations, based on copious interviews with virtually every protagonist in the drama, including Mr Obama himself.
What emerges is a President desperate not to be trapped in a war without end — a cool, rational and analytical man faced with a choice between bad options.
“I'm not doing 10 years. I'm not doing nation-building. I'm not spending a trillion dollars,” Mr Obama is quoted as saying to Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during one key meeting in October 2009.
In itself, the book breaks little major new ground. The argument between the Pentagon, and the White House is well known. Allegations have also circulated before about the mental state of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President.
Nonetheless, the appearance now of Obama's Wars, and its detailing of bitter arguments at the pinnacle of government, will do the Democratic Party no good less than six weeks before mid-term elections.