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Obama Says Gates Wrong on Afghanistan Commitment

Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said he remains committed to the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan after former Defense Secretary Bob Gates wrote that the president lost confidence in his own military strategy there.

In his first public comments on Gates’s memoir since excerpts were published last week, Obama praised his former defense chief and said Gates agreed with the administration’s approach.

“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 today in Washington. “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.”

In the book, Gates criticizes Obama’s national security team, including Vice President Joe Biden, for “operational meddling” in military matters and writes that Obama lacked commitment in Afghanistan even as the president sent in more troops. Obama ordered a surge of 30,000 troops in December 2009 to boost the total to 100,000 intending to thwart the Taliban and facilitate a withdrawal of forces.

Obama said he continues “to have faith in our mission” and has “unwavering confidence in our troops.”

“That job is not yet done,” Obama said. “We need to see this job all the way through and that is going to be the case through the end of this year and we’re going to continue to have significant interests in the region for years to come.”

Gates was a holdover from the administration of Obama’s predecessor, former President George W. Bush. Gates’s memoir, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” is scheduled for release tomorrow.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael C. Bender in Washington at mbender10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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