President Obama was cornered by a reporter in the White House Monday afternoon about Bob Gates’ new book, forcing him to respond to the former defense secretary’s withering claim that he did not support his own strategy for Afghanistan.
Although he appeared a bit miffed by the question, Obama was measured in his response:
OBAMA: You know, Secretary Gates did an outstanding job for me as secretary of defense. As he notes, He and I and the rest of my national security team came up with a strategy for Afghanistan that was the right strategy, and we are continuing to execute it. And I think that what is important is that we got the policy right, but that . . . this is hard. And it always has been. Whenever you’ve got men and women that you are sending into harm’s way, after having already made enormous investments in blood and treasure in another country, then part of your job as commander-in-chief is to sweat the details on it and to recognize that there’s enormous sacrifices being made. And you’re constantly asking yourselves questions about how you can improve the strategy.
The good news is that because of that strategy that we came up with, by the end of this year we’ll have completed combat operations in Afghanistan. We are in a position to continue to assist the Afghan people in making sure that they have a stable country, that it is working on behalf of the Afghan people and that it is a good partner with us. But war is never easy, and I think that all of us who have been involved in that process understand that. But I want to emphasize that during his tenure here, Secretary Gates was an outstanding secretary of defense, a good friend of mine, and I’ll always be grateful for his service.
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