WASHINGTON - A new book by former US defence secretary Robert Gates strongly criticizes President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan war policy, saying the president “eventually lost faith in the troop increase he ordered,” but he commended Obama’s decision to raid the Abbottabad house of Osama bin Laden.

Gates, a Republican, contends that Obama backed the American soldiers in Afghanistan but lost faith in their mission despite having ordered an infusion of 30,000 additional troops.

The former Pentagon chief came to the conclusion that Obama “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out,” according to his new memoir, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” to be published next week. Gates served as defence secretary in both the George W Bush and Barack Obama administrations, from 2006 to 2011. After a request from Obama that he stay on the job, he agreed to do so. But he says he soon came into conflict with the president, vice president Joe Biden and the White House national security staff over Afghanistan policy.  Gates writes that he never “doubted  Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for their mission.”

In his memoir, leaked to The New York Times and The Washington Post, Gates charged President Barack Obama with failing to trust his top military leaders.

During his tenure, Gates was largely seen as the rare nonpartisan figure in Washington. But, he says, much of that was for public consumption and to present the public and the world with the appearance of a united American security front. In private, Gates writes, he was “seething” and “running out of patience” with a dysfunctional Washington.

While Gates offers conflicting takes, the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward said there was a fairly warm personal sentiment between the two men, whom he interviewed for his own book, “Obama’s Wars.” Obama, in turn, lauded Gates, saying he had served “extraordinarily well.”

In the 546-page memoir, Gates reserved even sharper criticism for Vice President Joseph Biden, who Gates accused of “poisoning the well” between Obama and the military’s top brass, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen and Army Geneneral David Petraeus, who at the time was overseeing both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Biden was one of the administration’s top critics of the Afghanistan surge, a policy Obama himself was deeply skeptical of, though he eventually signed off on a slightly more limited version of it shortly after taking office. Woodward’s accounts depicted a commander in chief who feared, as Gates writes, “being gamed” by the military to draw out the conflicts Obama had promised to end.

Though he charged former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was opposed to the 2003 Iraq surge because of political considerations while running against Obama, he offered glowing praise of her time in Obama’s cabinet.”I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world,” he said.

On Afghanistan, Gates says that by 2011, Obama began criticizing - sometimes emotionally - the way his policy in Afghanistan was playing out. At a pivotal meeting in the situation room in March 2011, called to discuss the withdrawal timetable, Obama opened with a blast of frustration - expressing doubts about Gen. David Petraeus, the commander he had chosen, and questioning whether he could do business with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.

“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,” Mr. Gates wrote. “For him, it’s all about getting out.”

Gates offers detailed history of his personal wars with Congress, the Pentagon bureaucracy and, in particular, Obama’s White House staff. He wrote that the “controlling nature” of the staff “took micromanagement and operational meddling to a new level.”

He calls Vice President Biden “a man of integrity,” but questions his

judgment. “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign

policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” Gates writes.

Gates discloses that he almost quit in September 2009 after a dispute-filled meeting to assess the way ahead in Afghanistan, including the number of troops that were needed. “I was deeply uneasy with the Obama White House’s lack of appreciation - from the top down - of the uncertainties and unpredictability of war,” he recalls. “I came closer to resigning that day than at any other time in my tenure.”

Caitlin Hayden, the National Security Council spokeswoman, released a statement late Tuesday saying that “deliberations over our policy on Afghanistan have been widely reported on over the years, and it is well known that the president has been committed to achieving the mission of disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda, while also ensuring that we have a clear plan for winding down the war, which will end this year.”

In response to Gates’s comments on  Biden, she said, “President Obama relies on his good counsel every day.”

As a bipartisan critic, Gates holds the George W. Bush administration responsible for misguided policy that squandered the early victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, although he credits Bush with ordering a troop surge in Iraq that averted collapse of the mission. And he says that only he and  Bush’s second secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, pressed forcefully to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with little result.

Gates acknowledges that he initially opposed sending Special Operations forces to attack a housing compound in Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader, was believed to be hiding. Gates writes that Obama’s approval for the Navy SEAL mission, despite strong doubts that Bin Laden was even there, was “one of the most courageous decisions I had ever witnessed in the White House.” 

In a statement, the White House defended Biden in its statement, saying Obama “disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment” of the vice president.

“Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world. President Obama relies on his good counsel every day,” Hayden said.