Conflict & Justice

Lessons from Iraq

(How much of the recent success in Iraq do you attribute to Petraeus?) I think he does deserve a lot of credit but everyone knows it's not just the guy at the top. Lots of soldiers on the ground contributed, as well as huge numbers of Iraqis who came over onto the U.S. side. There are also some real statesmen in the Iraqi government. (What made it work that Petraeus implemented?) I think it could be summarized as such: Petraeus came in February '07 and he first formed a multi-disciplinary group of soldiers and analysts on Iraq and tried to get ahold of the problem and understand it. Then he developed a strategy based on that. The fundamental point of this commission was to encourage political accommodation, increased the population security and tried to control and identify the cause of insurgent elements to ensure they were going after the right people. (How much of Petraeus's success do you think was good luck and good timing on his part in the sense that a lot of other scenarios had been tried out?) This was the last ditch effort but this was also a new plan and nothing that had been tried before. (Have you ever gotten a real sense of what drives General Petraeus?) One of my favorite anecdotes about him is he would have his junior officers out to run with him at his camp on weekends. These are individuals five or six rungs below him on the military ladder, and he would use this opportunity to talk to them and have them tell him what was going on out there. He had a direct message for them too and told them to engage in reconciliation and reach out to the population. (He does have his detractors and quite a few of them in the military itself, old-school officers. Were you ever one of his detractors?) I was most critical of him when he was ready to leave Iraq before the situation was consolidated. As of January of this year he was already talking to the president about his next project. I do think Petraeus has also had some difficulties with his peers in the military because of his ambitions. Many of his veers believe he's too ambitious in his politicking. (Does Petraeus have political ambitions?) This came up in our interviews and he and his wife both insist he has no desire to run for political office. (What's important for the next president to do to not lose the gains Petraeus made in Iraq and move forward in Afghanistan?) the short term agenda is to press the Maliki government to support the Sunni populations who came over to support the government of Iraq. The provincial elections also need to go off well and with free and fair conduct so the Sunnis who boycotted the last election are represented at the local level. (Could this surge like plan work in Afghanistan?) As far as a surge into Afghanistan, the U.S. military leadership is calling for a three brigade increase. My sense is you don't want to just pump more troops into Afghanistan. What would be most applicable from experiences in Iraq is to analyze the conflict and to reach out to the population base that is forming the support base for the Taliban insurgency and Al Qaeda elements to find safe haven.

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