Bob Woodward: Obama Determined to Find Afghanistan Exit Strategy

VIDEO: White House War on Two Fronts
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A new book by legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward paints President Obama as a commander in chief who's searching for and demanding -- amid fierce internal debate among advisers and military leaders -- an exit strategy from Afghanistan.

Watch ABC's Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview with Bob Woodward starting on Monday Sept. 27 on World News and continuing on Nightline and Good Morning America on Tuesday Sept 28

"Obama's Wars" hasn't hit store shelves yet, but copies have been leaked to the press. According to published reports, "Obama's Wars" says that the president decided to set a timetable for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan because, he said, "I can't lose the whole Democratic Party."

Traveling on Air Force One to New York today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters he read "Obama's Wars" in its entirely Tuesday night and could not think of a single element he would dispute as an error.

"I think that the book portrays a thoughtful, vigorous, policy process that led us to the best strategy to give us the best chance to achieve our objectives and goals in Afghanistan," Gibbs said. " I can't imagine that any option the president looked at would not have engendered some debate. That's the nature of this process.

"There was also robust discussion about how important it is in our national interest not to become involved in something in Afghansitan that was unlimited or open-ended."

To Obama's saying he wanted a war strategy that would not lose the entire Democratic Party, Gibbs said, "The president was not making a political argument. The president was making an argument in our national interest."

Gibbs repeated four times that he hopes people read the entire book.

"I think that the book portrays a thoughtful, vigorous, policy process that led us to the best strategy to give us the best chance to achieve our objectives and goals in Afghanistan," Gibbs said. " I can't imagine that any option the president looked at would not have engendered some debate. That's the nature of this process.

"There was also robust discussion about how important it is in our national interest not to become involved in something in Afghansitan that was unlimited or open-ended. "

But Democratic lawmakers have grown increasingly angry with the Democratic president's war policy. Nearly half the Democrats in the House of Representatives -- 102 members -- opposed a war-funding bill last June.

In "Obama's Wars," Woodward writes that in 2009, the president was intent on pursuing a way out of the war in Afghanistan. Obama is said to have pushed doggedly for an exit plan from his military advisers, only to be confounded when they offered plans that called for an increase in troops.

When his advisers did not offer a strategy that satisfied him, Obama "finally crafted his own strategy, dictating a classified six-page 'terms sheet' that sought to limit U.S. involvement," according to the Washington Post's write-up of "Obama's Wars." Woodward draws from interviews with top administration officials, detailed meeting notes and classified documents.

The New York Times reported on the book first. The Washington Post, Woodward's longtime employer, quickly followed suit.

"Obama's Wars" also details the squabbles between the president's top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, and his top adviser in the White House, David Axelrod, whom Petraeus reportedly called a "spin doctor."

White House: President Is 'Analytical,' 'Decisive'

The war strategy, as described in the book, could extend far beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. Woodward reports that the CIA has a 3,000 troop mostly Afghan "covert army," called the Counterterrorism Pursuit Team, or CTPT.

A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News the existence of this mostly Afghan army and that it's pursuing high-value targets.

Watch ABC's Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview with Bob Woodward starting on Monday Sept. 27 on World News and continuing on Nightline and Good Morning America on Tuesday Sept 28 Watch ABC's Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview with Bob Woodward starting on Monday Sept. 27 on World News and continuing on Nightline and Good Morning America on Tuesday Sept 28

"This is one of the best Afghan fighting forces, and it's made major contributions to stability and security," the official said.

"Obama's Wars" is in some ways seen as a continuation of Woodward's exhaustive behind-the-scenes chronicling of the Bush administration's foreign policy. Woodward wrote four books about President George W. Bush's White House: "Bush at War," "Plan of Attack," "State of Denial" and "The War Within."

Beyond detailing internal squabbles in "Obama's Wars," Woodward points to outright policy disputes. Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said he believed the new strategy could work.

Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the president's adviser on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, said the president's reviews of the strategy going forward did not "add up" to his ultimate decision.

A senior administration official who read "Obama's Wars" told ABC News, "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 of the book's descriptions of the infighting that "the debates in the book are well-known because the policy review process was covered so exhaustively."

White House officials said the book actually paints the president in a flattering light, as someone who seeks a breadth of advice and acts decisively. It provided excerpts from the book to support its point.

The president is said to focus his review of the Afghanistan strategy on key central questions, including "What can we realistically expect to achieve in the next few years? What presence do we have to have in Afghanistan in order to have an effective counterterrorism platform?"

The president is also described as being engaged in communications from the field, staying up late reading intelligence reports and pressing his aides on contradictions they contain.

Obama Confounded by the Contradictions

"I've been up at night reading intelligence reports," Obama said at one point in "Obama's Wars." Early on, the book describes Pakistan's overwhelming concern that the United States would pull out of Afghanistan and the region as it had done before. Later in the book, Obama cites a report warning that Pakistan dreaded having a large Afghan army on its border that might allie itself with India, while one of the U.S. objectives is to build that army. "How do you explain the contradiction?" Obama asked. "What exactly was Pakistan worried about -- too much or too little? What am I to believe?"

The book quotes Holbrooke as saying that his small staff stayed up late preparing analysis papers that it believed went unread.

"There's one person in the room who reads them," Holbrooke told his staff, "and that's the man they are intended for."

The White House staffers also pointed to portions of "Obama's Wars" that they said showed the president pushing to get the right strategy.

"I'm not going to make a commitment that leaves my successor with more troops than I inherited in Afghanistan," the president said.

As with any book by Bob Woodward, "Obama's Wars" reveals the author's remarkable access, and contains plenty of fly-on-the-wall anecdotes.

National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones, for example, is said to have referred to other aides as "the water bugs" or "the Politburo," according to The New York Times.

The Times also reported that Defense Secretary Bob Gates was said to express worry that Jones would be succeeded by his deputy, Tom Donilon, who would be a "disaster."

Some other tidbits, according to The Washington Post:

"During a flight in May, after a glass of wine, Petraeus told his staff that the administration was '[expletive] with the wrong guy.'"

Also from the Post: "Suspicion lingered among some from the 2008 presidential campaign. ... When Obama floated the idea of naming Clinton, his former opponent, to a high-profile post, Axelrod asked him, 'How could you trust Hillary?'"

And on the subject of another terrorist attack, the president told Woodward in July, "We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever ... we absorbed it and we are stronger."

ABC News' Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

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