There are few men alive more trusted today to win a war that General David Petraeus. Not only has he thought long and hard about developing battlefield strategies to combat the rise of terrorism in the current era, but he has battlefield experience — and had it had even before the successful “surge” in Iraq, a plan that he developed and implemented.
Now, many have concerns about the timeline the president proposed for Afghanistan, having our troops out by a certain date next year, but Obama did tap Petraeus to lead our efforts in that troubled land. And his testimony today before the Senate Armed Services Committee shows that the general wants to win this war (even if his boss won’t use the term “victory”)
Gen. David Petraeus cautiously endorsed President Barack Obama’s exit plan for the Afghan war on Tuesday, leaving himself room to recommend changes or delays as he interviewed for the job of commander of the stalemated war.
Petraeus, the emergency replacement following the sacking of the previous commander, told a Senate panel that Obama wants him to provide unvarnished military advice. Petraeus has previously said that he would recommend putting off any large-scale withdrawal if security conditions in Afghanistan can’t sustain it.
Obama has said troops will begin to leave in July 2011, but that the pace and size of the withdrawal will depend upon conditions.
Emphasis added. That the president wants unvarnished advice from a military man like Petraeus goes well for the future of this war. The line above about withdrawal depending upon certain conditions suggests Obama has shifted a little in its insistence on a speedy conclusion to this operation.
The choice of Petraeus suggests as much. Indeed, some other things the general said indicated Petraeus’ focus on victory:
Petraeus also promised to “look very hard” at the rules of engagement governing troops in Afghanistan, if confirmed as the war’s next top commander.
McChrystal was criticized, including by some of his own forces, for putting too many limits on firepower to protect the lives of civilians.
Petraeus said he sees it as a “moral imperative to bring all assets to bear” to protect U.S. and Afghan troops. He said “those on the ground must have all the support they need when they are in a tough situation.”
That suggests some tweaks to the restrictive rules may be in the offing. Petraeus also endorsed the overall war strategy that prizes protecting people over attacking the enemy.
In a theater where terrorists in civilian garb hide amongst civilians, too stringent rules of engagement prevent us from getting the bad guys. To be sure, we still need to do all possible to protect civilians, but without losing sight of the ultimate goal of eradicating the terrorists from Afghanistan.
Finally, AP reporter Anne Flaherty contrasted this hearing from “Petraeus’ testimony in 2007 during the throes of the Iraq war”:
But the mood among lawmakers was considerably more upbeat, with Republicans and Democrats alike praising Petraeus.
Wonder why Democrats weren’t previously praising Petraeus. Guess it was that he had then been serving a Republican president. Why then are Republicans praising him if he is now serving a Democratic one?