Robert Gates Memoir Provides Unfiltered Look Into the Obama Administration

Former defense secretary discusses the president's leadership style, loss of faith of Afghan war policy.
3:00 | 01/07/14

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Transcript for Robert Gates Memoir Provides Unfiltered Look Into the Obama Administration
This is a special room. -- -- New York -- this ABC news digital special report -- Obama lost faith in his Afghanistan policy. In particular a 30000. Troop surge that is according to a new memoir from former Defense Secretary Bob gates. Gates runs of the Defense Department under President Bush and continued in that role for the president President Obama. A trusted advisor to so many presidents having worked for eight in all dating back to the Nixon administration his comments now. Providing -- and usually on -- -- look. Inside the Obama White House so joining us now with an in depth look at the politics of all of these revelations as. ABC's Devin Dwyer and from gates -- old headquarters at the Pentagon digital journalist Lou Martinez guys thanks for being with us DeVon tells a little bit more. About why gates has -- that's why did presidents keeping him. It essentially there when he stands to lose those troops being sent him. We'll have this book is a -- of. The bombshell Stew out earlier this month but as you mentioned some reports coming out today from the Washington Post in New York Times has some previews. -- -- Gates's comments and you know what makes these so surprising is how revered gates was as really is a career. Civil servant here in Washington serving eight presidents he served as both -- George W. Bush or President Obama and so. With that context these comments about his leadership style while President Obama is still in office is certainly. Stunning to many observers here and as you mentioned. Raises some serious questions that are raise some questions of leadership of the president. That really something have a split picture though and I think we can speak to a little bit of this at once. Gates describes President Obama as a man of integrity a rigorous thinker says the decision to go after Osama bin Laden was one of the most courageous he's ever seen in the White House but at the same time. He suggest the president wasn't really fully yet comprehending and respecting. What it means to run a war and am really when it came to his strategy with the regarding the surge. Of troops in Afghanistan he he wasn't really fully on board with its own strategy. Even as he was ordering those troops into combat quite -- quite a claim. And gates has -- that he had commitment in the troops themselves but not necessarily in the mission and Lou I want to bring it to that the because in the book gates for calls a march 2011 meeting during which President Obama expressed his frustration. Over the lack of progress in Afghanistan and this is what he writes quote as I sat there I thought. The president doesn't trust his commander can't stand Karzai doesn't believe in its own strategy and doesn't consider the war to be here is for him. It's all about getting out. -- -- the president's actions that bear that out. Well remember this is this strategy that President Obama developed in 2009. Because he wanted a coherent strategy for the Afghanistan Pakistan region. Because he said that if we're gonna commit to troops we had to commit to a long term strategy of involvement in Afghanistan. Its -- just going to be troops that is going to be diplomatic initiatives. That we're going to be talking about. Actual infrastructure old building within Afghanistan. So -- -- process took off in 2009 remember there -- meeting after meeting at the White House. And there -- he assess the famous assessment from general Stanley McChrystal the top commander at the time. And he said I need more troops are gonna carry out they sent by the end of the year the president said yes we're gonna send 30000 more troops and that ramp up the number of US troops in Afghanistan 100000 -- -- never been there. And that decade long war. Two years later in this is the meeting on March 2011. You're hearing gates say that -- sitting there in the White House listening -- the president and then when they're talking about Afghanistan it sounds like. He has doubts about the strategy that he had his -- craft. And that basically formed what he's seen this such a lack of progress -- and on his part that the relationship with Hamid Karzai had gone south. That General Petraeus he would is that the new commander at that point. Mean you what does that mouthing off in the press -- away comes across and that. He just really had lost. Well. Any sense that this mission what -- would complete successfully. So that's startling to hear. Because publicly you've heard the president talk about how he's committed to this strategy and that the United States is not going to abandon the region. -- and we have this ongoing you know struggle right now about whether the US is going to. Get a signature from Hamid Karzai. On this bilateral security agreement that mean sure that US troops continue after this pull out of 2014. So a lot of public comments -- privately it sounds like the president doubted that this would be a successful program. So so Devin gates also commented on the difficult working situation at the White House. Saying also this all too early in the Obama administration suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials. Became a big problem for me as -- tried to manage the relationship between the commander in chief. And his military leaders. So how was the relationship between the White House and military leaders evolved -- over these past five years. Well -- -- that -- gates is revealing this at this time similar to the point we just made about a public face and now learning and some private details. We've always seen the president and his military leaders put on -- public -- of -- respect and professionalism and but underlying all that have been some tensions. And I think that some of these revelations. In gates is Nam war here really underscore that this is a president. Who from the beginning quite honestly was with -- it was -- comparable with these two wars that he inherited. We know that he campaigned as someone who wanted to bring them to an end it now. I campaigned and for reelection as someone who is is bringing them to an end it's something that he celebrating now. And this this tension that this is now being described in in the book I think is is part of that is certain suspicion. -- trusted. Military brass that. He brought -- with him into the White House and certainly an uncomfortable situation now could he still there. But I think get good at the end of the day again this really illustrates searched -- -- illustrate that this is a president who. Never really wanted to be part of these -- to -- We'll -- let me let me ask you this that from the Pentagon's point of -- where -- they feel the White House went wrong in pursuing goals -- Afghanistan. I don't know that they actually felt that density they felt they be needed more troops back in 2009 -- got a commitment from. The Obama White House that -- -- gonna get those troops. And the crystal never expressing doubts that he needed more troops -- out what he got. Even in his own memoir -- correctly. So I think there was. There has been satisfaction that the White House has provided the -- military with what it needs in. Afghanistan one thing that I think -- come out though. Is whether -- -- this commitment that whether the US needs to have an enduring presence beyond 20141. Of the things that we've heard come out. About -- -- as it hasn't signed this agreement yet. Is that the White House still is considering -- zero troop option -- -- may pull out all the troops as they did. In Iraq two years ago so there's the sense -- among some -- commanders that they feel at that would be the wrong thing to do. You hear that privately but again I think in terms of the strategy and and then the troops and the support that they received. In the ball build up to now I think that's been okay. DeVon the president not the only one being criticized in this memoir vice president Joseph Biden -- well on the target of some works there who is. Frankly used to a particular type of attacks -- about Republicans. But the former secretary offensive wrote this that the -- has quote. Bet wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue. Over the past four decades is this just politics now did it to the former secretary of defense have anything. A positive to say about the administration. Well that while this. Very -- it to be fair and let's just take a step back -- and -- The early descriptions of this book and we haven't read -- at least I ever read the full 600 pages. But -- it's -- generally a balanced and mixed picture in picture of the administration it's honest it has its criticisms and we're certainly talking about some of the more colorful lines if you will but it. But it does appear that Bob gates is his it's taken a fairly evenhanded approach here but yes on this line he's very critical. Against them by vice president we didn't know for some time that the two were at odds -- in certain policy decisions. But this line to say that the vice president. It was basically wrong on every foreign policy major foreign policy issue for forty years as it's quite something. From this former Defense Secretary. With a long career here in Washington you can bet this will appear. In a campaign -- if he runs for president in 2016. We should also say though that there's a little bit of criticism in here. Hillary Clinton and we can talk about that though he did also had some very positive words. To say about. Heard him well -- -- wanted to if you wouldn't mind just elaborate on it before we bring -- back into the situation because I do -- -- find out a little -- kind of how this is going to play or have any kind of an impact on our current strategy in Afghanistan but. You bring up the point that DeVon that in fact is that gates -- did also it also mentioned others. That -- in -- Obama cabinet. That's right they're too. -- tidbits in this book that -- it will influence that potentially influence the 2016 campaign. And two big democratic names right Hillary Clinton Joseph Biden both rumored. To be pursuing presidential bids here the comment we just mentioned there about Biden being wrong. According to Bob gates and these major foreign policy issues certainly a damning statement. But there's also -- revelation in the book Bob gates says that he was in a meeting with Hillary Clinton and President Obama -- it and during which. Secretary of state Clinton said that she. Basically oppose the Iraq troop surge in 2007. This after she supported the intervention there she oppose the troop surge. Simply because the Iowa Caucuses were on the horizon they -- right around the corner and so. Is it a big surprise that she would have made a decision like that are taken a stance based on politics while not really. But it certainly does fuel a story line -- her critics will use any potential campaign that she someone. Not a principle but of expediency. And as we know of course presidential campaigns have a way of running and cycles and a very expedient way right. Louis alas they stepping and then a wave from the infighting is going on Washington what is the state of play right on Afghanistan today -- where -- calling this surge a success. Well that this was a two and a half years ago that four actually for years now that since the surgeon began. And a -- that's -- 100000 and they are now 38000. US troops there. And potentially headed to zero -- be. Fourteen I mean it's unclear what those final number will be after twin -- -- -- fourteen. The real issue here is his Hamid Karzai -- sign this deal in the next couple of weeks as military leaders have been pressing because saving you can get -- planning right. So that the president can make a decision about what kind of force levels he wants to keep. But everybody's opinion accused Karzai. Saying he wants to wait until an election -- the election and kick off until April. And -- only if there's a runoff this. There could yet further election beyond that how I'm just gonna realize a lot of uncertainty now. About column whether how big of -- US presence there will be after 2014. Or if there even will be -- the case. This is continue to drag out for quite a long time. -- lot of confidence still in the Afghan security forces and how they're handling the situation. They still lack a lot of logistical and every sourcing and aviation assets and -- that something that's gonna need to be worked out over the next couple of years. But for now for his right now here it's pending on concern is getting -- sign bilateral security agreement. And we'll have to wait and see if something like this have any kind of an impact on the negotiations the relationship back and forth between Afghanistan. And the United States it's called duty memoirs of a secretary at war it's coming out January 14. ABC's -- Martinez has -- -- pentagon Devin Dwyer also from Washington gentlemen thank you both we appreciate your time. Of course for the latest on the fallout from former secretary of defense Bob gates -- how -- they were here on And on down perhaps -- New York with the CBC news digital special report.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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