Petraeus Has Key Job As New US Iraq Commander



Along with his new Iraq strategy and troop increase, President Bush has named a new commander for U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. He is Lieutenant General David Petraeus, the man who has spent the last year supervising the re-writing of the army's counterinsurgency manual. VOA Pentagon Correspondent Al Pessin reports on the officer who, if the Senate approves his assignment, will have the pivotal job in the effort to prevent the violence in Iraq from spiraling out of control.

General Petraeus is known as one of the army's top intellectuals. He has a doctorate in international relations from Princeton University and is a prolific writer on military issues. He says his education helps him "ask the right questions." But he is also an experienced field commander, having led the famed 101st Airborne Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

During a speech in Washington in November, before his appointment, General Petraeus offered some insight into the type of leader he strives to be.

He said, "All of our wonderful soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines deserve the best leaders our nation can provide, leaders who can deal with the complexities of the situation in which we are operating today."

"Such leaders must, by necessity, be competent war fighters, and then some, intelligent, aggressive, creative and physically and mentally tough soldier-statesmen," he added.

"Soldier-statesman" is the approach he brought to his command in northern Iraq in 2003, where he prided himself on aggressively hunting insurgents during the nights, and conducting humanitarian and economic development operations during the days.

"We were able to sort of build during the day, we called it, and pick up bad guys at night," said General Petraeus.

That approach is believed to have worked well, and it is built into the new counterinsurgency manual he and his staff wrote last year. It is an approach he is expected to put to the test in Baghdad and other troubled parts of Iraq when he arrives in the midst of the new security operation President Bush announced on Wednesday. The general's arrival date has not yet been set.

One of his co-authors on the manual was retired lieutenant-colonel Conrad Crane, who now teaches at the army's War College.

"The dominant theme in the manual really is learning and adapting," he said. "And I think that will be the key to success in an environment as dynamic and complex as Iraq."

Crane was a classmate of General Petraeus at the U.S. Military Academy in the early 1970s, and he says the general is the right man for the difficult assignment in Iraq.

He said, "It's a complicated situation over there, and I think he's the most capable commander that we've got available right now to try to handle it. If anybody can fix the problem, he's the one that can do it. General Petraeus has the unique combination. He's got intellect. He's got passion. He's got the military acumen. But he's also got the intellectual, analytical skills."

That evaluation has been echoed by many retired military officers, and by analysts like Danielle Pletka at the American Enterprise Institute.

"He is a very impressive man," she said. "He understands what is necessary. He is a man, who wants to see the United States win on the ground, and he wants to do what it takes to win."

General Petraeus is not speaking publicly until his new assignment is confirmed by the Senate. But the top U.S. military officer, General Peter Pace, told a Senate committee Friday that General Petraeus believes the new Iraq security plan is the right approach to bringing the violence under control.

"General Petraeus, in his current role, responsible for doctrine on counterinsurgency operations, has been consulting with the generals in Iraq. And he is very much on board with this," said General Pace.

If approved by the Senate, Lieutenant General Petraeus will become a relatively young full, four-star general at age 54. People who know him attribute his rapid rise to his intellectual rigor, physical toughness and competitive nature.

His confidence has alienated some people along the way, but he has also spoken of the value of what he calls "intellectual humility" for people who have weighty responsibilities.

In addition, General Petraeus will bring to his new job a detailed knowledge of the Iraqi army, which will be at the center of the Baghdad security operation. He spent a second year in Iraq managing the training of that army in 2004 and 2005.

Many leaders in the Bush administration and the Congress are looking to General Petraeus to salvage the situation in Iraq, and create enough stability for a U.S. withdrawal to begin. It is a huge job, and even senior military officers who helped develop the president's new Iraq strategy acknowledge that the outcome of the effort is far from certain.

In his speech in November, General Petraeus indicated he will not sugar-coat whatever happens in Iraq.

"Our job is to be forthright, I think, and to provide an accurate assessment of the situation," he said.

Members of Congress in particular will be eager for that in his confirmation hearing, expected during the next few weeks, and even more so after he has had some time back on the ground in Iraq.


This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs