Woodward on Afghan War ‘Skeptic’ (Emanuel) Departing White House

By Kate McCarthy

Sep 28, 2010 9:20am

The Afghan war "skeptic" is expected to leave the White House this week to make a run for the Chicago mayor's seat. But how will Rahm Emanuel’s departure affect the war strategy?

“It depends on who [replaces him.] Rahm, as you know, is one tough cookie, and if there is something going on that the president doesn’t like or he doesn’t like he goes in with the hammer,” Bob Woodward, the author of “Obama’s Wars,” said on “GMA.”

Woodward’s book – an inside look at the wartime president and his closest advisors – notes Emanuel’s skepticism over the Afghan war.  At one point Woodward quotes Obama as saying “Nothing would make Rahm happier than if I said no to the 30,000” when he was reaching a decision on the Afghan troop surge.

“[Emanuel’s] the skeptic. He said Afghanistan is ‘political flypaper’ you get stuck to it you can’t get off,” Woodward told me today.

But the chief of staff was not alone in his hesitation. Ambassador Holbrooke, Lt. Gen. Lute and Gen. Petraeus  — the “architect” of the surge – expressed doubts in the book during a time when the president himself said he could just authorize 10,000 more troops instead of 30,000 and “hope for the best.”

“The question that pulses throughout any long inquiry like this is who is Barack Obama? Who is our president? And for the first time you can see his internal struggle, his intellectual struggle, his dealing with the military, his dealing with his political advisers, and he set a course,” Woodward told me. “The problem here is so much is unsettled, the relationships are not settled.”

In all of his discussions with Obama and his advisors Woodward said he never saw the president step up to the surge the same way he campaigned, by saying “yes we can.”

“He is an intellectual as we know, he’s the law professor. He looks at the facts on the ground in Afghanistan which I lay out. It’s a dreary picture,” Woodward said. “And he can see, in fact last spring at the end of one of these briefings he said, ‘Given that definition of the problem I don’t know how we are going come up with the solution.’ And so intellectually he realizes [it's] real real hard, he knows he is commander-in-chief, he knows he has to do something.”

The turf wars and internal battles over the Afghan war strategy could come around again with the December review and impending troop withdrawal this summer.

“You know there is the x-factor in any battle and I guess I would call it the will to win — we’re just going to do it — and I suspect as all of this goes out and people look at it the president is going to have to give some speech and get out and say, ‘Look, this is really where I stand, this is what we’re doing, this is where we go from here to there,” Woodward said.

Watch my interview with Woodward here:

George Stephanopoulos

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