Obama lost faith in Afghan war strategy, claims Robert Gates

Jan 8, 2014

Former US defence secretary uses new memoirs to criticise president's handling of the Afghan war

BARACK OBAMA lost faith in the United States' strategy in Afghanistan, the former US defence secretary Robert Gates has claimed.

In a new book called Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, Gates claims the president was "sceptical if not outright convinced" that the military strategy would fail.

According to Gates, who was also Pentagon chief under George Bush, Obama remains uncomfortable with the inherited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He describes Obama as "a man of personal integrity" but says he was distrustful of the military that was providing him options.

Obama's White House was "was by far the most centralised and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger ruled the roost", he says. Gates even ordered his aides to limit how much information was given to Obama's advisors because "they don't understand it" – an illustration of how strained relations were between the White House and the Pentagon.

In the Washington Post, Bob Woodward notes that it is rare for a former cabinet member, let alone a defence secretary occupying a central position in the chain of command, to publish such an "antagonistic portrait of a sitting president".

Woodward says the "sometimes bitter tone" in Gates's 594-page memoir contrasts sharply with the "even-tempered" image that he cultivated during his many years of government service. Indeed, Gates describes his outwardly calm demeanour as a facade and reveals that he was frequently "seething" underneath and "running out of patience on multiple fronts".

Nevertheless, the former defence secretary says he "never doubted Obama's support for the troops, only his support for their mission".

A National Security Council spokeswoman yesterday made a statement to say that Obama "deeply appreciates Bob Gates's service as secretary of defence, and his lifetime of service to our country".

She added: "As has always been the case, the president welcomes differences of view among his national security team, which broaden his options and enhance our policies."

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