President Obama has full faith in his strategy in Afghanistan and the counsel he receives from his administration -- particularly Vice President Joe Biden, a White House spokesman insisted Wednesday in response to criticisms and charges put forward by Mr. Obama’s former defense secretary Robert Gates.
In his forthcoming memoir, Gates reportedly wrote that Mr. Obama "eventually lost faith in the troop increase he ordered in Afghanistan." Those doubts, Gates wrote, were “fed by top White House civilian advisers opposed to the strategy, who continually brought him negative news reports suggesting it was failing."
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that Mr. Obama “is committed and has been committed to the mission he has asked our men and women in uniform to perform in Afghanistan.”
Carney added that it is “not a revelation” that Mr. Obama has been interested in winding down the war. “It was his stated commitment to the American people.”
When Mr. Obama inherited the war, it was “in disarray by the judgment of many,” Carney continued, but Gates and other members of the administration helped create a “policy in Afghanistan that was much more clear in its objectives.”
As for those civilian advisers who opposed the president’s strategy, Carney said Mr. Obama “expects to hear competing points of view from every member of his national security team... That’s what he gets, and he’s grateful for it.”
Carney responded, “As a senator and as a vice president, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time and he has been an excellent counselor and adviser.” Biden, he continued, has played a “key role in every major national security and foreign policy debate and policy discussion in this administration.”
Still photographers were granted access to Mr. Obama’s lunch with Biden on Wednesday, but Carney said it had nothing to do with the Gates memoir -- the White House has simply been looking for more opportunities to give the press access to the president. Mr. Obama has full confidence in Biden, Carney said, adding, “We don’t need to reinforce that, it’s just a fact.”
Carney clearly anticipated a barrage of questions about the memoir, opening Wednesday’s briefing with, “Read any good books lately?”
Gates has also lobbed harsh criticisms at Congress. In a Wall Street Journal essay adapted from his memoir, Gates wrote, “I saw most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country.”
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, responded Wednesday that Gates is “entitled to his comments under the First Amendment just like anyone else.”
CBS "Sunday Morning" correspondent Rita Braver recently conducted an interview with Gates that will air this weekend.
"The most important thing, I think, is that while he praises President Obama for ordering more troops in Afghanistan against the wishes of his own party and even others within the White House, he says that he believes that the president never had a passion for pursuing the war in Afghanistan," Braver said. "And he says this is important because it's one thing to say that you support the troops, it's another thing to really let them know how it important it is to you that they must succeed, that their cause is just," Braver continued. "He says that he saw President Bush do that but he says he did not see President Obama do it and it disturbed him."