- Biden thought Obama was manipulated by his top commanders over Afghanistan, a new book says.
- Biden strongly disagreed with Obama’s decision to surge troops to the country in 2009.
- He later privately pledged that “the military doesn’t fuck around with me,” the book said.
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Joe Biden believed that then-President Barack Obama was manipulated by his military commanders when they advised him to surge thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan in 2009, according to “Peril,” by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, an early copy of which was obtained by The Post.
Biden, who was vice president at the time, disagreed so strongly with the troop surge that he privately pledged, “The military doesn’t fuck around with me,” the book says, according to The Post.
Instead of surging thousands more troops into Afghanistan, Biden favored a “counterterrorism plus” strategy that called for deploying a smaller number of troops and carrying out more drone strikes and special forces raids.
The US’s 20-year war in Afghanistan took a dramatic turn this year as the last US troops withdrew from the country. The Biden administration was sharply criticized for the chaotic nature of the withdrawal, which resulted in the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and the Taliban seizing power. While the US was able to airlift more than 120,000 Americans and Afghan allies, thousands are still stranded in Afghanistan amid fears of the Taliban’s brutal rule.
According to “Peril,” Biden’s top advisors debated alternatives to a full troop withdrawal last spring but ultimately decided against them.
And Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also deferred to Biden on the issue of Afghanistan, reportedly saying in recent remarks that “you never, ever, ever box in a president of the United States. You always give him decision space.”
“You’re dealing with a seasoned politician here who has been in Washington, DC, 50 years, whatever it is,” he added, referring to Biden, according to the book.
Milley’s approach to Biden was markedly different than the one he took with then-President Donald Trump. Trump’s actions, especially after he lost the 2020 election, were so alarming that Milley believed his mental state was declining, Woodward and Costa wrote, according to The Post. In a January 8 phone call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the book said, Milley agreed when Pelosi called Trump “crazy.”
The president’s behavior was so erratic during and after the election that it sparked concerns overseas that he would start a war, prompting Milley to call his counterpart in China to assure him that the US was not planning to launch any military strikes against the country.
Trump nominated Milley, a Princeton-educated Army general, to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2018 and he was serving in that role when the Trump administration signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020.
The deal laid out a power-sharing agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government – even though representatives for the Afghan government were left out of the talks – and said that the US would withdraw from Afghanistan in 14 months. In exchange, the Taliban pledged not to let the country become a haven for terrorists and to stop attacking US servicemembers.
Biden officials have in recent weeks blamed the deal for the disorderly troop withdrawal and claimed they inherited a mess from Trump. But former Trump officials brushed off the criticism, saying Biden could have altered the terms of the agreement if he wasn’t satisfied.
“If he thought the deal was bad, he could have renegotiated. He had plenty of opportunity to do that if he so desired,” Chris Miller, who served as acting secretary of defense under Trump, told The Associated Press.