Robert Gates in new memoir: Obama doubted Afghanistan surge would work

The former secretary of defense describes an ambivalent president and a clueless vice president

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Robert Gates in new memoir: Obama doubted Afghanistan surge would work Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (Credit: Wikipedia/Ed Schipul)

President Barack Obama quickly came to doubt the efficacy of the so-called Afghanistan troop surge, according to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ upcoming memoir.

As reported by both the New York Times and the Washington Post, Gates’ memoir alleges that despite authorizing an increase of troops in Afghanistan, president Obama was skeptical of the surge strategy, distrustful of its primary commander (David Petraeus) and negatively inclined toward Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

The Times reports Gates writing of a key meeting in the situation room during 2011, during which Obama expressed his doubts and concerns. “As I sat there,” Gates writes, “I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his.”

“For him,” Gates concluded, “it’s all about getting out.”

Despite this description, however, Gates writes positively of Obama, portraying the president as a smart and thoughtful executive who frequently made decisions that were likely to displease fellow Democrats.

Gates’ estimation of Vice President Joe Biden, on the other hand, is considerably less complimentary. While he describes Biden as “a man of integrity,” he also claims the vice president “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

Gates’ book, titled “Duty: Memories of a Secretary at War,” will be released on January 14.

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith, and email him at

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