Policy & Strategy

Obama downplays Robert Gates’s memoir

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President Obama brushed aside questions about Robert Gates’s memoir on Monday, praising the former secretary of Defense’s “outstanding” service and dismissing questions about his own commitment to the war in Afghanistan.

“Just as I have continued to have faith in our mission, most importantly, I’ve had unwavering confidence in our troops and their performance in some of the most difficult situations imaginable,” Obama said.

“And that job is not yet done. And I do think it’s important for Americans to recognize that we still have young men and women in harm’s way, along with coalition partners who are continuing to make sacrifices, and we need to see this job all the way through.”

{mosads}In the memoir, Gates describes Obama as “skeptical” about his strategy in Afghanistan. In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Gates accused Obama of an “absence of passion” when it came to military strategy.

“As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” Gates wrote. “For him, it’s all about getting out.”

The president said Monday that “war is never easy” and that a commander in chief is “constantly asking yourself” how things could be improved.

“What’s important is that we got the policy right, but that — this is hard, and it always has been,” Obama said. “Whenever you’ve got men and women that you’re sending into harm’s way, after having already made enormous investments of blood and treasure in another country, then part of your job as commander in chief is to sweat the details on it.”

The president sidestepped a question on whether Gates should have waited to publish his memoir until the conclusion of his presidency.

“During his tenure here, Secretary Gates was an outstanding secretary of Defense, a good friend of mine, and I’ll always be grateful for his service,” Obama said.  

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