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If the obstacle is not in the robot's global map, and the goal is too close to the obstacle (within the radius of the robot), the global planner will produce a valid path, but the local planner will not be able to execute it because it would put the robot in collision with the obstacle.

If the goal is too close to the obstacle, the robot will behave OK until it gets within sensor range of the obstacle, at which point the local planner will start issuing warnings about the goal point being in collision. It will also start executing the recovery behaviors in an attempt to clear out sensor noise. The recovery behaviors are probably causing the rotating that you're seeing.

If you aren't already, it's probably worth watching the console output or rosout from navigation while the robot is navigating.