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Inside 'Obama's Wars'

 Obama's Wars

Title: Obama's Wars
Author: Bob Woodward
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1439172490, 464 pages

Review: Obama's Wars
By Patrick Brigger, getAbstract

Hours after his election as the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama learned details of the top-secret circumstances that defined the Afghanistan conflict, a war characterized by inadequate resources, incomplete planning, inchoate strategy and ongoing bloodshed. Bob Woodward of The Washington Post applied his legendary reporting skills to reams of meeting notes, classified reports and interviews to recreate the often tempestuous policymaking on Afghanistan that marked Obama's first 18 months in office. Woodward's trip to Afghanistan and his unfettered access to top officials in more than 100 interviews, including more than an hour with the president, put you at the center of marathon meetings, disputes and discussions peopled by contrasting personalities and their shifting allegiances. getAbstract recommends this work of reporting, an engrossing book on how the U.S. is managing a war "with no good options."

Mr. President-elect...
Two days after winning the November 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama met with Mike McConnell, his predecessor's director of national intelligence, for a briefing on the "highly classified intelligence operations and capabilities of the vast US espionage establishment." In a closed, secure room, Obama learned more about the challenges he was inheriting as president.

With 161,000 US troops deployed in Iraq and another 38,000 in Afghanistan, Obama learned that a larger threat to his military now came from nuclear-equipped Pakistan, whose 1,500-mile, porous border with Afghanistan provided easy, safe passage to al Qaeda, the Taliban and their affiliates. Tribal chiefs working with the Taliban ruled Pakistan's "Federally Administered Tribal Areas." In 2006 the Pakistani government gave up authority over the North Waziristan border region, which quickly became "kind of a Wild West" for extremists and a staging ground for moving people and arms in the war against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan's military espionage unit, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), played both sides, ostensibly supporting U.S. interests while arming and funding the Taliban. Why? Pakistan needed to ensure that, whatever happened in Afghanistan, its greatest enemy - India - would not gain a foothold in the country.

Angered by the ISI's duplicity, George W. Bush's administration authorized Predator drone attacks in Pakistan, alerting the Pakistanis only during or after the sorties. But drones need sources on the ground to identify targets, so the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had gone to great lengths to groom and protect these spies, keeping their identities secret from everyone except the president and "designated cabinet officials." Augmenting this intelligence capability were the top-secret Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams, "the CIA's 3,000-man covert army," which worked to win tribal support and to fight against the Taliban. In September 2008, these troops conducted a botched raid into Pakistan to seize a house al Qaeda was using. The raid ended with civilian casualties, and the Pakistani government excoriated the U.S. for breaching its border...

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By getAbstract

 |  February 3, 2011; 8:04 AM ET |  Category:  Books Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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