Answering questions during an Oval Office appearance, Obama said
Gates was an outstanding defense secretary and that because of the
strategy that the Obama administration formulated, the United States
will have concluded combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of
"I think what's important is that we got the policy right but that
this is hard and it always has been," Obama said.
Gates, who was defense secretary from 2006 to 2010, wrote a memoir
released this week entitled "Duty" that complains that Obama did not
believe in his own strategy and "doesn't consider the war to be
"Just as I have continued to have faith in our mission, most
importantly I've had unwavering confidence in our troops, in their
performance in some of the most difficult situations," Obama said.
He said the United States and its coalition partners still have
troops in harm's way and "we need to see this job all the way
After Obama was elected in 2008 to succeed Republican President
George W. Bush, Gates agreed to Obama's request that he remain as
defense secretary, becoming the first Pentagon chief to serve
presidents of different parties.
Obama has made no secret of wanting to extract U.S. troops from
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His administration is currently locked in a test of wills with
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. If a contingent of U.S. troops
is to remain in Afghanistan after the final pullout at the end of
this year, then the Afghan government must sign a bilateral security
Afghanistan has so far refused to do so, leaving White House
officials to warn that all U.S. troops will pull out at the end of
the year with no deal.
Gates, in interviews, has sought to temper some of his criticism of
the president in his book.
"The truth is we had a very good personal relationship," Gates told
National Public Radio. "We discussed our differences openly. He was
always civil and kind to me, gave me a lot of trust and confidence."
(Reporting by Steve Holland; editing by James Dalgleish and Dan
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