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Petraeus makes the case for war… to Britain

Petraeus makes the case for war… to Britain

CentCom commander Gen. David Petraeus writes in the (London) Times to make the case for a population-centric counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan and praise U.S.-British cooperation:

[W]e need to be realistic in recognising that the campaign will require a sustained, substantial commitment. Many tough tasks loom before us — including resolution of the way ahead after the recent election, which obviously has been marred by allegations of fraud. The challenges in Afghanistan clearly are significant. But the stakes are high. And, while the situation unquestionably is, as General McChrystal has observed, serious, the mission is, as he has affirmed, still doable. In truth, it is, I think, accurate to observe that, as in Iraq in 2007, everything in Afghanistan is hard, and it is hard all the time.

Iran constitutes the main state-based threat to stability in the region. The impact of its malign activities and harsh rhetoric are felt throughout the Arabian Peninsula, making it, ironically, the best recruiter with prospective partners. We now have eight Patriot missile batteries spread across countries on the western side of the Gulf, where two years ago we had far, far fewer.

If Cecil Rhodes was correct in his wonderful observation that “being an Englishman is the greatest prize in the lottery of life”, and I’m inclined to think that he was, then the second greatest prize in the lottery of life must be to be a friend of an Englishman, and based on that, the more than 230,000 men and women in uniform who work with your country’s finest day by day are very lucky indeed, as am I.

Petraeus also gave an address at London’s Policy Exchange think tank, saying, “The challenges in Afghanistan are significant, but the stakes are also high, and while the situation unquestionably is serious, the mission is still do-able.” (See the AfPak Channel for more.)

Sending Petraeus to rally British support makes sense, but it makes me wonder why the Obama adminsitration hasn’t used Petraeus — certainly the most well-known military officer in the country and a bona fide pop-culture icon — to pitch the Afghanistan strategy to the U.S. public.

The media-savvy general seemed to be everywhere during the later Bush years defending the Iraq surge. But Petraeus has been out of the spotlight lately and the job of “selling” Afghanistan seems to have been left to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen and the previously unknown Stan McChrystal. With the Pentagon worried about declining public support for the war, it seems odd that they haven’t pulled out the big guns, so to speak. 

CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images