- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2013

A former senior adviser in the Obama administration says that “ravenous” political faction-fighting between aides to the president and those around then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Obama’s presidential-primary rival in 2008, hobbled U.S. policymaking in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Turf battles are a staple of every administration, but the Obama White House has been particularly ravenous,” writes Vali Nasr, an academic who worked for Richard C. Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in Mr. Obama’s first term.

Mr. Nasr’s book, “The Dispensable Nation,” is to be published next month. A lengthy excerpt is being published on Monday by Foreign Policy magazine, and the book’s contents were reported in The New York Times.

He paints a picture of a micromanaging and backbiting White House staff nervous of the public profile of someone, Mrs. Clinton, they regarded as a rival long after the campaign was over.

“Those in Obama’s inner circle, veterans of his election campaign, were suspicious of Clinton. Even after Clinton proved she was a team player, they remained concerned about her popularity and feared that she could overshadow the president,” Mr. Nasr writes, according to The New York Times.

The bureaucratic turf conflicts, Mr. Nasr writes, excluded Holbrooke from secure video conferences that Mr. Obama had with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and from a presidential trip to Kabul, undermining the diplomat’s credibility with the Afghans.

The rivalry between the White House and State Department staff did not extend to the two principals, Mr. Nasr says, and indeed, whenever possible, Mrs. Clinton went directly to Mr. Obama on policy issues to get around the “Berlin Wall” of his staffers.

Reflecting on the White House staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until September 2011, observed that “they want to control everything,” Mr. Nasr recounts.