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Petraeus Predicts Tough Times

Lt. Gen. David Petraeus.
by Pamela Hess
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Washington DC (UPI) Jan 24, 2007
The general tapped to make the new Iraq security strategy work told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday he believes it can succeed, but cautioned the senators to keep their expectations realistic. "The situation in Iraq is dire. The stakes are high. There are no easy choices. The way ahead will be very hard," said Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, nominated to replace Gen. George Casey as the commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq. "But hard is not hopeless.

"None of this will be rapid. In fact, the way ahead will be neither quick nor easy, and there undoubtedly will be tough days. We face a determined, adaptable, barbaric enemy. He will try to wait us out. In fact, any such endeavor is a test of wills, and there are no guarantees."

Petraeus promised to tell Congress if he becomes convinced the "surge" and its attendant political and economic programs are not working.

"I want to assure you that should I determine that the new strategy cannot succeed, I will provide such an assessment," he said. "This is not about being beholden to anyone. This is not about, again, being aligned with any party or anyone else. I will give you my best professional military advice, and if people don't like it, then they can find someone else to give better professional military advice."

He warned that the real possibility of failure in Iraq carries with it potentially grave dangers, but admitted no one can accurately predict what will happen.

"There is the very real possibility of involvement of countries from elsewhere in the region, around Iraq, entering Iraq to take sides with one or the other groups. There is the possibility, certainly, of an international terrorist organization truly getting a grip on some substantial piece of Iraq. There is the possibility of problems in the global economy, should in fact this cause a disruption to the flow of oil -- and a number of other potential outcomes, none of which are positive," he said.

Much attention is being paid to the Iraqi government's responsibilities to make political concessions and commit its military and police forces to fighting death squads and insurgents. But Petraeus' sites are set at least as squarely on the U.S. government agencies which, four years on, have failed to provide civilian personnel with expertise in reconstruction to the war effort.

"I believe this plan can succeed if, in fact, all of those enablers and all the rest of the assistance is in fact provided," Petraeus said.

"This clearly is the time for the leaders of all our governmental departments to ask how their agencies can contribute to the endeavor in Iraq, and to provide all the assistance that they can. Our military is making an enormous commitment in Iraq. We need the rest of the departments to do likewise, to help the Iraqi government get the country and its citizens working, and to use Iraq's substantial oil revenues for the benefit of all the Iraqi people."

He expressed empathy for the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people for the terrifying daily struggle they endure in Baghdad.

"Citizens make life-or-death decisions on a daily basis just trying to get to work, get their kids to school, get some food," he said. "It is ... exceedingly difficult for the Iraqi government to come to grips with the toughest issues it must resolve while survival is the primary concern of so many in Iraq's capital. For this reason, military action to improve security, while not wholly sufficient to solve Iraq's problems, is certainly necessary. And that is why additional U.S. and Iraqi forces are moving to Baghdad," he said.

"I think that at this point in Baghdad, the population just wants to be secure, and truthfully, they don't care who does it."

With a PhD in political science, Petraeus is one of the most highly regarded intellectuals in the military. He has equal chops as a commander, having stabilized northern Iraq immediately after the 2003 invasion with a mix of focused military action supported by sound intelligence, major attention to physical reconstruction, and a deft hand with the locals.

There seemed not to be a single school opening or hospital opening that Petraeus did not personally attend, associating the American presence with progress and order. Petreaus and Marine Lt. Gen. James Mattis oversaw the writing of the new counter-insurgency manual which enshrines that patient, multi-pronged approach for the U.S. military.

That order fell apart five months after his 101st Airborne Division pulled out of northern Iraq in February 2004. It was replaced with a Stryker brigade a third of the size of the division, which consequently had fewer linguists and intelligence cells. At the same time, the Sunni insurgency was gaining steam across the country, and in June 2004 the governor of Ninevah province was assassinated.

With less intelligence, less presence and a growing threat, U.S. forces lost the upper hand. In November 2004, as some 10,000 American Marines and Iraqi forces rolled into Fallujah for major battle, insurgents launched coordinated attacks across Ninevah province, attacking more than 50 police stations, destroying many of them.

Petraeus returned to Iraq in June 2004 to head for 16 months the formal effort to train and equip an Iraqi military, an organization that now numbers more than 130,000 but has proven uneven on the battlefield.

This will be his fourth deployment in the last five years. Petraeus said he accepted the nomination -- which comes with a fourth star -- somewhat reluctantly.

"I think the committee ought to know, you know, I'd be very happy to stay on the banks of the Missouri River at Fort Leavenworth, Kans., instead of go back to the banks of the Euphrates River. And I'm doing this out of a sense of service, again to those great young men and women who are over there, and because this is what the military does," he said.

Source: United Press International

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