Gates, who served as Pentagon chief from 2006 to 2011 under Obama
and his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, is critical of
Obama's leadership on several defense-related issues, especially
Afghanistan, according to a review of "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary
at War" in the Washington Post on Tuesday.
According to the Post, Gates wrote that he concluded by early 2010
that Obama, who had ordered his own troop "surge" in Afghanistan
like Bush's in the Iraq war, "doesn't believe in his own strategy,
and doesn't consider the war to be his. For him, it's all about
Gates adds that Obama was "skeptical if not outright convinced it
(the administration strategy) would fail," according to the Post.
"I never doubted Obama's support for the troops, only his support
for their mission," Gates writes.
Reacting to the comments reported in Gates' book, the White House
National Security Council said, "Deliberations over our policy on
Afghanistan have been widely reported on over the years, and it is
well known that the president has been committed to achieving the
mission of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda, while
also ensuring that we have a clear plan for winding down the war,
which will end this year."
Obama "deeply appreciates" Gates' service as defense secretary, NSC
spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement, and "welcomes
differences of view among his national security team, which broaden
his options and enhance our policies."
After Obama was elected in 2008 to succeed Bush, Gates agreed to the
new president's request that he remain as defense secretary,
becoming the first Pentagon chief to serve presidents of different
Gates describes Obama as "a man of personal integrity" and says
later in his memoir that "Obama was right" in his decisions
But Obama was uncomfortable with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan he
inherited from the Bush administration and distrustful of the
military that was providing him options, Gates writes.
According to the Post's account of the book, the different world
views of Obama and Gates "produced a rift, that at least for Gates,
became personally wounding and impossible to repair."
The Post said Gates acknowledges in his book that he did not
confront Obama over the president's determination that the White
House control all aspects of national security policy.
"His White House was by far the most centralized and controlling in
national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon and Henry
Kissinger ruled the roost," Gates writes.
His book also criticizes top Obama aides, including Vice President
Joe Biden, who he says was "poisoning the well" against the U.S.
[to top of second column]
The former defense secretary, who also headed the CIA under former
President George H.W. Bush, calls Biden a "man of integrity,"
according to the New York Times' account of the book, but "I think
he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national
security issue over the past four decades."
The NSC's Hayden said Obama disagreed with that assessment and that
"from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate to his efforts to
end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen
of his time, and has helped advance America's leadership in the
The Post said Gates writes that confidence and trust were lacking in
his dealings with Obama and his team.
Describing "a couple of important White House breaches of faith,"
Gates said Obama informed him on one day's notice he would announce
the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that
barred gays from serving openly in the military.
Gates supported repeal but writes he was "blindsided" by the move,
which had been under discussion for months.
He writes that he was also "extremely angry" with Obama in a debate
over defense spending. "I felt he had breached faith with me ... on
the budget numbers."
"Why did I feel I was constantly at war with everybody, as I have
detailed in these pages?" he asks in the memoir, which also
criticizes Congress. "Why was I so often angry? Why did I so dislike
being back in government and in Washington?"
"The broad dysfunction in Washington wore me down, especially as I
tried to maintain a public posture of nonpartisan calm, reason and
conciliation," Gates writes.
"I did not enjoy being secretary of defense," Gates notes in his
memoir, emailing a friend, according to the Post, that "people have
no idea how much I detest this job."
(Writing by Peter Cooney, additional reporting by Jeff Mason;
editing by Jim Loney, Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)
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