Robert Gates: Obama Browbeat Petraeus for Afghanistan Withdrawal Criticism
According to Bob Woodward at the Washington Post, Robert Gates, former defense secretary under Barack Obama, makes clear in his new memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, that Obama was not as concerned with winning the war in Afghanistan as he was with pleasing anti-war advocates by withdrawing U.S. troops.
In 2010, Obama was furious with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the central commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, for telling the press he was not comfortable with a fixed date to withdraw U.S. troops.
Gates reveals that at a March 3, 2010 meeting of the National Security Council, Obama commenced with a “blast” at the military for “popping off in the press” and blustered he would fight any attempt to delay the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
According to Gates, Obama said haughtily, “‘If I believe I am being gamed...’ and left the sentence hanging there with the clear implication the consequences would be dire.” Gates saw exactly how little winning the war meant to Obama and how much his desire to get out at any cost dictated his policy:
I was pretty upset myself. I thought implicitly accusing [Petraeus and other generals] of gaming him in front of thirty people in the Situation Room was inappropriate, not to mention highly disrespectful of Petraeus. As I sat there, I thought: the president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand [Afghanistan 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.
Twenty-five days later, in a surprise visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the President told them how much winning the war meant to him:
If this region slides backwards, if the Taliban retakes this country and Al Qaeda can operate with impunity, more American lives will be at stake. Our broad mission is clear, we are going to disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy Al Qaeda… Thanks to you there has been progress these last several months. We have seen a huge increase in support in stateside because people understand the mission there and the success taking place by U.S. military and civilians. Your services are absolutely necessary, absolutely essential to America's safety and security. Those folks back home are relying on you.