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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) President Barack Obama on Monday rejected criticism from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates who questioned whether the president supported his own policy toward Afghanistan. Answering questions during an Oval Office appearance, Obama said Gates was an outstanding defense secretary and that because of the strategy the Obama administration formulated, the United States will have concluded combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of this year. "I think what's important is that we got the policy right, but that this is hard, and it always has been," Obama said. Gates, who was defense secretary from 2006 to 2010, wrote a memoir out this week entitled "Duty" that complains Obama did not believe in his own strategy and "doesn't consider the war to be his."