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What Petraeus meant to say…

Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, set the expectations bar low today for President Obama’s surge of U.S. troops to Afghanistan. "You’re not going to turn Afghanistan," Petraeus said in a speech at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies Thursday, adding a little later: "Overall, I thought that Afghanistan was going ...

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Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, set the expectations bar low today for President Obama’s surge of U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

"You’re not going to turn Afghanistan," Petraeus said in a speech at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies Thursday, adding a little later: "Overall, I thought that Afghanistan was going to be the longest campaign in the Long War."

"What I was trying to say, at the least," Petraeus wrote in response to a follow-up email query from The Cable, "is that shouldn’t expect to see the kind of rapid turnaround in the security situation in Afghanistan as was the case following the surge in Iraq."

The thrust of Petraeus’s remarks at CSIS was that Iraq and Afghanistan are two wholly different situations and that despite Obama’s commitment of 30,000 new troops to Afghanistan with the intent of beginning to withdraw them in 2011, a stark change toward stable democracy is unlikely during that timeframe.

Petraeus went on to say that the objective now in Afghanistan is to demonstrate that progress can be achieved with the appropriate approach and then to transition responsibility for continued progress back to the Afghan government.

The commander also talked about some of the other hot-button issues in his area of responsibility. He warned that the current dispute in Iraq over the banning of 500 parliamentary candidates, mostly Sunnis, "could really undermine a key issue, the reconciliation effort there."

Iraqi government players are working feverishly behind the scenes to come to a compromise over the dispute, Petraeus said. He added that the U.S. release of suspected Iran-backed terrorist Qais Khazali was an example of the length the parties had gone to for the reconciliation effort.

On Yemen, Petraeus was asked how the U.S. can have confidence that their new and improved support of the Yemeni government won’t result in that money going back into the hands of America’s enemies.

"We partner with the elements (of the Yemen government) who are focused on the extremists that are most important to us," the general explained.

He also pushed back on the idea that the rise of extremist activity in Yemen caught the U.S. government off guard.

"This is not something that is a total surprise to us at all."

 

Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, set the expectations bar low today for President Obama’s surge of U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

"You’re not going to turn Afghanistan," Petraeus said in a speech at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies Thursday, adding a little later: "Overall, I thought that Afghanistan was going to be the longest campaign in the Long War."

"What I was trying to say, at the least," Petraeus wrote in response to a follow-up email query from The Cable, "is that shouldn’t expect to see the kind of rapid turnaround in the security situation in Afghanistan as was the case following the surge in Iraq."

The thrust of Petraeus’s remarks at CSIS was that Iraq and Afghanistan are two wholly different situations and that despite Obama’s commitment of 30,000 new troops to Afghanistan with the intent of beginning to withdraw them in 2011, a stark change toward stable democracy is unlikely during that timeframe.

Petraeus went on to say that the objective now in Afghanistan is to demonstrate that progress can be achieved with the appropriate approach and then to transition responsibility for continued progress back to the Afghan government.

The commander also talked about some of the other hot-button issues in his area of responsibility. He warned that the current dispute in Iraq over the banning of 500 parliamentary candidates, mostly Sunnis, "could really undermine a key issue, the reconciliation effort there."

Iraqi government players are working feverishly behind the scenes to come to a compromise over the dispute, Petraeus said. He added that the U.S. release of suspected Iran-backed terrorist Qais Khazali was an example of the length the parties had gone to for the reconciliation effort.

On Yemen, Petraeus was asked how the U.S. can have confidence that their new and improved support of the Yemeni government won’t result in that money going back into the hands of America’s enemies.

"We partner with the elements (of the Yemen government) who are focused on the extremists that are most important to us," the general explained.

He also pushed back on the idea that the rise of extremist activity in Yemen caught the U.S. government off guard.

"This is not something that is a total surprise to us at all."

 

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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