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Biden warned Obama during Afghan war review not to get 'locked into Vietnam'

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By Bob Woodward
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 2:04 AM

The second of three articles adapted from "Obama's Wars" by Bob Woodward.

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On Thanksgiving weekend in 2009, as President Obama was crafting his final Afghan war strategy, Vice President Biden fired off six handwritten memos by secure fax from Nantucket island in Massachusetts, where the Biden family traditionally gathered to celebrate the November holiday.

As Biden had for months, he was keeping the pressure on, urging Obama to avoid a dramatic escalation of the war.

The president, still engaged in intense discussions at the White House, told Biden by secure phone: There's no good option.

It would not be that bad if Hamid Karzai's government in Afghanistan fell, Biden said.

No, Obama replied. The downside was too great. Obama said he was going with 30,000 more troops, a significant escalation but less than the 40,000 that the military kept advocating.

Biden faxed another memo to the president. "It's not the number, it's the strategy."

This was a moment of decision for the first-year president, and Biden was in a rented house in Nantucket, away from the nonstop discussions in Washington.

Finally, Obama told Biden: "I want to have a meeting Sunday." The president would call the national security team to the Oval Office and give members the six-page, single-spaced "terms sheet" he had dictated that precisely listed his new orders.

"Mr. President," Biden said, "I want to meet you before you go in."

"No," Obama replied.

"I'll meet you in the residence."


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