David Petraeus

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There are no easy choices. The way ahead will be very hard … But hard is not hopeless.
Political progress will only take place if sufficient security exists.

David Howell Petraeus (born November 7, 1952) is a retired United States Army general and public official. He served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from September 6, 2011, until his resignation on November 9, 2012. Prior to his assuming the directorship of the CIA, Petraeus served 37 years in the United States Army. His last assignments in the Army were as commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and commander, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A) from July 4, 2010, to July 18, 2011. His other four-star assignments include serving as the 10th commander, U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) from October 13, 2008, to June 30, 2010, and as commanding general, Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I) from February 10, 2007, to September 16, 2008. As commander of MNF-I, Petraeus oversaw all coalition forces in the Iraq War.


  • There are no easy choices. The way ahead will be very hard. Progress will require determination and difficult U.S. and Iraqi actions, especially the latter, as ultimately the outcome will be determined by the Iraqis. But hard is not hopeless, and if confirmed, I pledge to do my utmost to lead our wonderful men and women in uniform and those of our coalition partners in Iraq as we endeavor to help the Iraqis make the most of the opportunity our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have given to them.
  • Iran, as we have already discussed, has carried out very, very harmful activities inside Iraq. Funding, trainings, arming and, in some cases, even directing the activities of the special groups associated with the Jaish al-Mahdi and the Sadr Militia.
    • As quoted in "Ranking House Committee Members Grill Crocker and Petraeus on U.S. Progress in Iraq" in The Washington Post (10 September 2007)

Quotes about Petraeus[edit]

  • Another practitioner of the counterinsurgency war was General David Petraeus. I first met him at Fort Campbell in 2004. He had a reputation as one of the smartest and most dynamic young generals in the Army. He had graduated near the top of his class at West Point and earned a Ph.D. from Princeton. In 1991, he was accidentally shot in the chest during a training exercise. He endured a sixty-mile helicopter flight to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where his life was saved by Dr. Bill Frist, later the Republican leader of the Senate. Early in the war, General Petraeus had commanded the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul. He sent his troops to live alongside the Iraqi residents and patrol the streets on foot. Their presence reassured residents that we were there to protect them. Petraeus then held local elections to form a provincial council, spent reconstruction funds to revive economic activity, and reopened the border with Syria to facilitate trade. His approach was textbook counterinsurgency. To defeat the enemy, he was trying to win over the people. It worked. While violence in much of Iraq increased, Mosul remained relatively calm. But When we reduced troops in Mosul, violence returned. The same would happen in Tal Afar.
    • George W. Bush, Decision Points (2010), p. 365
  • Even General Petraeus believes that leaking secret information is terrible-when others do it. In 2010 he said on Meet the Press about Chelsea Manning's revelations: "This is beyond unfortunate. I mean, this is a betrayal of trust... that is very reprehensible."
    • Amy Goodman Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America (2016)
  • By the end of the Vietnam War, the American military had learned a good deal about how to fight a counterinsurgency war against a nationalist movement that used both conventional and guerrilla forces. The only problem was that few people wanted to remember either Vietnam or its lessons. There was, said T.X. Hammes, a Marine colonel who maintained an interest in counter-insurgency, “a pretty visceral reaction that we would not do this again.” American military training focused on conventional war; counter-insurgency was not even mentioned in the army’s core strategic planning in the 1970s. Hammes nevertheless studied the small wars in places such as Central America, Africa, and Afghanistan, and wrote a book on how to combat guerrilla warfare. A publisher turned it down: “Interesting book, well written, but a subject nobody’s interested in because it’s not going to happen.” The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century finally came out in 2004 as the Americans were painfully learning in Iraq the lessons they had chosen to forget. In 2005, General Petraeus, one of the few American generals to devise successful tactics in Iraq, set up a counter-insurgency academy there. Back in the United States, he made the study of counter-insurgency compulsory at the army’s advanced training colleges. Two books, T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, about the Arab revolt against the Turks during World War I, and Counterinsurgency Warfare by the French officer David Galula, became unexpected bestsellers in bookstores near army bases.
  • Teamed up with General Dave Petraeus (Commander Central Command and responsible for the entire region), America now has two generals who understand how to fight on the battlefield, as well as in Washington for resources. Stan McChrystal made an assessment of the situation he inherited and immediately saw the mission/resource mismatch. His request for thirty-thousand additional troops, while not a political best-seller in Washington, came at a critical time to reverse the trend he found in Afghanistan- a growing insurgency, a reemerging Taliban, and a loss of confidence by the Afghan people, which undermines the confidence the international community has in Karazai. Today, it appears that Generals Petraeus and McChrystal (Commander U.S. Forces Afghanistan) are starting to turn things around. Only time will tell if the U.S. effort, as a part of NATO, will be able to leave behind a stable Afghanistan with a more sophisticated infrastructure and systems resembling today's more modern nations. For sure, it won't be easy or fast. But if we remember the conditions that led to 9/11 and take into consideration the possible outcome of an al-Qaeda-controlled Afghanistan that already has a toehold in Afghanistan's next-door, nuclear-armed neighbor, Pakistan, we just might conclude that the effort will be well worth it.
    • Hugh Shelton, Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior (2010), p. 510-511

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