Monday, July 28, 2008

General Petraeus Goes Public With Opposition To Obama's Timelines


McClatchy Newspapers has interviewed General Petraeus on the idea of a timetable for the withdraw of all U.S. combat brigades from Iraq. While General Petraeus has warned against timelines in his repeated appearances before Congress, this is his first public assessment in the papers, during the heat of a political campaign, and with peace taking hold in Iraq. General Petraeus also addressed many of these same themes in an interview with NPR, in which he also added that PM Maliki raised the issue of tying withdraw to conditions in his meeting with Obama. Obama, for his part, continues to "refine" his position on Iraq.

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This from a McClatchey interview with General Petraeus:

The top U.S. military commander in Iraq isn't buying the increasingly popular idea of a publicly stated timetable for American troop withdrawal.

Gen. David Petraeus, the Iraq commander, said in an interview with McClatchy that the situation in Iraq is too volatile to "project out, and to then try to plant a flag on, a particular date."

With violence at its lowest levels of the war, politicians in both the United States and Iraq are getting behind the idea of a departure timetable. . . .

. . . "We occasionally have commanders who have so many good weeks, (they think) it's won. We've got this thing. Well we don't. We've had so many good weeks. Right now, for example we've had two-and-a-half months of levels of violence not since March 2004," he said from his office at Camp Victory.

"Well that's encouraging. It's heartening. It's very welcome. But let's keep our powder dry. . . .Let's not let our guard down."

Petraeus is pushing for a more nuanced debate as both U.S. and Iraqi political leaders are in campaign seasons, with many voters in both countries wanting to hear there is an end. Maliki is trying to sway voters in time for this fall's scheduled provincial elections by winning support from his political rival, firebrand cleric Muqtada al Sadr, who has called for a U.S. withdrawal date since 2004.

Throughout his tenure, Petraeus has argued for a drawdown based on conditions, saying that the last of the five surge brigades could leave earlier this month because Iraqi forces are increasingly capable of securing Iraq.

Petraeus said that while both Sunni and Shiite extremists groups are weaker, Iraqi security forces still face threats as the groups try to reconstitute themselves throughout Iraq. And because of that, U.S. and Iraqi forces must not assume that the battle here is won, he said.

Maliki's surprise spring offensive in the southern port city of Basra was a turning point in the security situation. It rid Iraq's second-largest city of militia control and bolstered the confidence of both the Iraqi people and military. But the Iraqi security forces turned to U.S. troops to help them win, leading some to call for a more cautious withdrawal plan.

Petraeus has said he believes there will be a "long-term partnership" in which the U.S. acts primarily in an advisory role to Iraqi forces, but with enough combat power to step in and help if major battles erupt. But he said that that like most things in Iraq, plans could change.

"We know where we are trying to go. We know how we think we need to try to get there with our Iraqi partners and increasingly with them in the lead and shouldering more of the burden as they are," Petraeus said.

"But there are a lot of storm clouds out there, there are lots of these possible lightning bolts. You just don't know what it could be. You try to anticipate them and you try to react very quickly. . . .It's all there, but it's not something you want to lay out publicly."

Read the entire article.

General Petraeus also spoke in an NPR interview this morning. He tactfully says that Maliki's seeming call for timelines of withdraw need to be read in respect of the elections also coming up in Iraq. The situation has drastically improved, but there are "many challenges" ahead. (H/T Hot Air)

As I've written before, Iran is still an existential danger to Iraq and will be until Iran's theocracy is driven from power or it succeeds in turning at least southern Iraq into a satellite. With that in mind, it is important to view security gains in Iraq with the thought that there will inevitably be further proxy assaults from Iran. An actual withdraw of all combat forces within sixteen months would, in all likelihood, be an incredible disaster.

Obama has taken the position the mostly contradictory position that he will listen to the advice of his commanders on the ground during the sixteen month drawdown - though not as to the timetable for withdraw. I noted this glaring inconsistency in his speech in Jordan given the day after his 'check the block' visit to Iraq. Hot Air picked it up the same theme in response to another interview:

According to The One, the president sets the strategy: Most troops out in 16 months but some left behind for various missions. The generals supply the tactics: To carry out those missions responsibly, we need X number of troops. What does X equal? Why, it’s … “entirely conditions-based”

It seems Obama is trying to refine his Iraq position as far as he can without bringing down the wrath of his base who want, above all else, to have Iraq declared a defeat for the U.S.


1 comment:

MK said...

I'm glad Petraeus is speaking up, all the hard work that he and his men have done, the price they paid in lives and blood will be wasted by some elitist ass and his sniveling sycophants who want his troops to fail.