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Woodward book exposes Obama team’s internal Afghan battles.

Administration members quarrel 20 months over policy, express doubts


WASHINGTON — Some of the critical players in President Obama’s national security team doubt his strategy in Afghanistan will succeed and have spent much of the last 20 months quarreling with one another over policy, personalities and turf, according to a new book.

The book, “Obama’s Wars,” by the journalist Bob Woodward, depicts an administration deeply torn over the war in Afghanistan even as the president agreed to triple troop levels there amid suspicion that he was being boxed in by the military.

Mr. Obama’s top White House adviser on Afghanistan and his special envoy for the region are described as believing the strategy will not work.

The president concluded from the start that “I have two years with the public on this” and pressed advisers for ways to avoid a big escalation, the book says.

“I want an exit strategy,” he implored at one meeting.

Privately, he told Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to push his alternative strategy opposing a big troop buildup in meetings, and while Mr. Obama ultimately rejected it, he set a withdrawal timetable because, “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”

But Mr. Biden is not the only one who harbors doubts about the strategy’s chances for success. Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the president’s Afghanistan adviser, is described as believing that the president’s review did not “add up” to the decision he made.

Richard C. Holbrooke, the president’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is quoted saying of the strategy that “it can’t work.”

Access extensive

Mr. Woodward, the longtime Washington Post reporter and editor, was granted extensive access to administration officials and documents for his account, including an interview with Mr. Obama.

The New York Times obtained a copy of the book before its publication by Simon & Schuster, scheduled for next week.

The White House had no comment on the book Tuesday night.

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