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Ex-Pentagon Chief: Obama Lacked Faith In Afghan Strategy

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks during a Senate Defense Subcommittee hearing in June 2011.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks during a Senate Defense Subcommittee hearing in June 2011.
In a new book, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says U.S. President Barack Obama lacked faith in his own war strategy in Afghanistan.

The book, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War," is to be published next week, but reviews of the memoirs and excerpts appeared in U.S. media on Tuesday.

Gates describes Obama as "a man of personal integrity" who was right in his decisions regarding Afghanistan.

But he adds that Obama was uncomfortable with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he inherited from the previous administration.

A Republican, Gates served as defense secretary for 4 1/2 years under Obama and his predecessor, President George W. Bush.

He writes that Bush focused on Iraq at the expense of Afghanistan and calls the Republican president's goals there "embarrassingly ambitious and historically naive," given the resources devoted to the task.

In 2009 Obama approved the strategy of putting 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan and in 2010 appointed General David Petraeus as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

In recalling a March 2011 meeting in the White House, Gates writes: "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. For him, it's all about getting out."

Obama is described as distrustful of the military that was providing him options.

The former defense secretary asserts that Obama's White House constantly interfered in Pentagon affairs, even though civilian aides lacked knowledge of military operations.

Gates, however, gives credit to Obama for approving the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, describing it as "one of the most courageous decisions I had ever witnessed in the White House."

Gates also writes that Vice President Joe Biden has been "wrong on nearly every major foreign-policy and national-security issue over the past four decades."

Reacting to the comments reported in Gates' book, the White House National Security Council said, "It is well known that the president has been committed to achieving the mission of disrupting, dismantling, and defeating Al-Qaeda."

The statement added that Obama also ensured that "we have a clear plan for winding down the war, which will end this year" with the withdrawal of most international troops.

It also asserted that Obama relies on Biden's "good counsel" every day and considers him "one of the leading statesmen of his time."

With reporting by dpa, AP, AFP, and Reuters