President Obama on Monday weighed in publicly for the first time on a blistering memoir by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, calling his Pentagon chief a “good friend” despite the military leader's damning critique of the White House.
"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,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office after a meeting with Spainish President Mariano Rajoy Brey.
“As I sat there, 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,” Gates wrote in his new memoir. “For him, it's all about getting out.”
Obama acknowledged that the decision-making process on Afghanistan was never easy.
"What's important is that we got the policy right ... this is hard, and it always has been,” he said Monday.
“Whenever you've got men and women that you're sending into harm's way, after having already made enormous investments of blood and treasure in another country, then part of your job as commander in chief is to sweat the details on it,” Obama added.
Since the public airing of his book, Gates has accused leaders in both parties of using his critiques to score political points. The former Pentagon leader also defended the timing of his memoir, saying he didn’t want to wait to go public with concerns merely because it was inconvenient for the Obama administration.