Gates Book: Obama Lost Faith in Own Afghan Strategy

Ex-defense chief also admires Hillary but thinks Joe Biden is wrong, a lot

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 7, 2014 7:01 PM CST

(Newser) – A memoir by former defense chief Robert Gates alleges that President Obama lost faith in his own Afghanistan mission, according to accounts in the New York Times and Washington Post. Gates recalls a meeting in 2011 in which Obama expresses frustration with Gen. David Petraeus and Hamid Karzai: “As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” writes Gates in Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. “For him, it’s all about getting out.” At the Post, Bob Woodward asserts that Gates also levels "one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief sending forces into combat," citing this excerpt regarding the Afghan strategy: Obama, writes Gates, was "skeptical if not outright convinced it would fail." The book is out Jan. 14, so expect much more in terms of excerpts and reaction.

Other highlights:

  • On Joe Biden: The VP is a "man of integrity," writes Gates. But “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades."
  • On Hillary Clinton: “I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world,” he writes of the former secretary of state.
  • Hillary, take II: “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. ... The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”
  • Bin Laden mission: He called Obama's decision to send in the SEALs despite doubts that bin Laden was there "one of the most courageous decisions I had ever witnessed in the White House.”

President Obama attends an Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in honor of outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates on June 30, 2011, at the Pentagon.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Obama applauds as outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates waves during a tribute for Gates on June 30, 2011.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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