When Bob Woodward's book, "Obama's Wars," is released on Monday, the denizens of Washington's Beltway will eagerly skip to the index to see whether they are mentioned -- and if not, who is. But as they digest the stories of infighting, rivalry and catty comments among the president's national security team, excerpts of which have already begun to circulate, the larger question is whether the revelations in the latest Woodward tome will have an impact on the Obama administration's Afghan policy.
Woodward seems to confirm what many have suspected ever since President Barack Obama's speech at West Point announcing the Afghan "surge" last December: Domestic political concerns have been a major driver of the administration's approach to the war. The candid assessment that the inclusion of a July 2011 deadline to begin disengaging from Afghanistan was designed to prevent Obama from losing the "entire Democratic party" might not play well Stateside. But it serves as retroactive comfort for those NATO allies who resisted the administration's call to deploy more forces to Afghanistan -- a centerpoint of the president's efforts since taking office in January 2009. Nor is it likely that future calls for alliance solidarity will have much impact, as they will be seen as a ploy to reduce the number of Americans on the ground in order to facilitate the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
At the same time that Woodward's revelations are dominating the U.S. press, the British media is focusing on British troops' "withdrawal from Sangin," a strategically located town in Helmand province that U.K. forces have turned over to the U.S. Marines. Though Prime Minister David Cameron insists that the British soldiers who perished during the four-year operation to secure Sangin did not die in vain, there seems to be a growing sense of pessimism in Britain over whether success in Afghanistan is achievable. As the Daily Mail noted, "Our troops remain in Afghanistan chiefly to support the Americans. Only when they lose patience can we come home."