US defence chief plays down divisions over Afghan war

Robert Gates says officials had debated before endorsing Afghan policy.

Washington: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday played down reports of feuding in the administration over the Afghan war, saying officials had a vigorous debate before endorsing the President`s policy.

Gates told reporters, "The relationship among senior officials in this administration is as harmonious as any I`ve experienced in my time in government."

The defence secretary, whose career in government began in the 1970s, made the comments when asked about a blockbuster new book by famed reporter Bob Woodward.

The book portrays President Barack Obama as frustrated with the Pentagon as he sought to stop the war consuming his young presidency, with fierce infighting among top aides and power plays by the military for more troops.

But Gates said once Obama made up his mind on Afghanistan last year, top officials rallied behind the President.

"My view is that once the President made his decisions last December, everybody at the senior level in the administration was on board in terms of going forward with the strategy he approved and executing it to the best of our ability.”

"And that continues to be the case."


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