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News Flash: General Reassignment


President Bush has been an enthusiastic supporter of General Petraeus, whom he has credited with overseeing a troop increase and counterinsurgency plan credited with reducing the sectarian violence in Iraq, and some officials say the president would want to keep General Petraeus in Iraq as long as possible.

In one approach under discussion, General Petraeus would be nominated and confirmed for the NATO post before the end of September, when Congress is expected to break for the presidential election. He might stay in Iraq for some time a fter that before moving to the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, but would take his post before a new president takes office.

Folks have been asking me what I think about the prospect of General David Petraeus being re-assigned out of Iraq. It’s something I’ve been thinking and talking about for months. We need General Petraeus in Iraq, but I am concerned that we need him more elsewhere. Iraq has made dramatic changes, but that is also largely the result of the vast improvement in how our military conducts counterinsurgency. I believe there are some extremely capable Generals who can take the reigns and keep moving Iraq forward.

Although we are making tremendous progress in Iraq, we’re still not at “mission accomplished.” In fact, increased American casualties in the next 60 days or so should be expected. But I am deeply—and increasingly—concerned that we are losing the war in Afghanistan. I’ve detailed the reasons I think the Taliban and al Qaeda have been able to regroup and gain support among locals. But there is also gaping inconsistency in how our allies approach the mission there, casting NATO as the octopus trying to ride a bicycle. And strategically speaking, signs of wear and tear on our military are apparent to all.

Lieutenant General James Dubik’s testimony before the House Armed Services Committee recently was truthful in fact and tone. General Barry McCaffrey continues to speak harsh truths and folks would do well to listen to McCaffrey. Our military is too small. It’s being worn down. We’re not providing adequate care for wounded veterans. I have seen this with my own eyes during 2007.

I do not have the solutions. Instead, I look to experienced and wise people like Petraeus and McCaffrey for solutions. When folks like Dubik are talking, it’s good to sit down and listen closely. I do know we need more soldiers. We should not have to choose between continuing and sustaining the progress we’ve made in Iraq at the expense of losing the war in Afghanistan. Losing either war, or winning only one, could have severe consequences for the entire Middle East, the restive Indian subcontinent, the United States and the world.

Given the stakes, the notion of General Petraeus moving to a position where he can engage our allies more robustly in the efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and decrease the threat of terrorism there and beyond, might be a smart idea.

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