Petraeus: Iran should be involved in Mideast strategy
January 10, 2009
WASHINGTON — Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, told a gathering of foreign policy leaders Thursday that Afghanistan and Pakistan were now a singular problem that will require better use of coordinated "civil-military" strategies to involve the entire region, including Iran.
Petraeus also said that 2009 will be noted as "a year of transition for Iraq," as the military continues to drawdown its combat strength while giving Iraqi forces greater control.
"The progress does remain fragile," he cautioned, but further announcements of troop reductions in Iraq could be coming soon.
"We have, as you know, gone from 20 ground maneuver brigade combat teams now down to 14," he said. "There are additional recommendations that we’re examining right now that in the weeks ahead will probably surface, and then we’ll see where we go from there."
Petraeus, who met with congressmen on Capitol Hill earlier in the day, was the keynote speaker at "Passing the Baton," a U.S. Institute of Peace event first held in 2001 prior to the inauguration of President Bush.
The all-star policy jam session prefaced President-elect Barack Obama’s swearing-in with a unified call for a more equitable support for America’s military, foreign policy, and nongovernmental communities charged with tackling global security challenges.
High-ranking military officers, foreign ambassadors, and noted academics came to the Washington Convention Center for a lineup that included retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Defense Secretary William Perry, United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who had led the U.N. mission in Afghanistan during the U.S. invasion, and former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, among others.
The institute also released a report calling for the U.S. to refocus its efforts on Afghanistan, look beyond military solutions and prepare for the long haul in the region stretching from India to Iran.
Late cancellations by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, left the spotlight on Petraeus, who commands the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Indeed, Afghanistan and Pakistan have in many ways merged into a single problem set. And the way forward in Afghanistan is incomplete without a strategy that includes and assists Pakistan, and involves India," as well as the northern Central Asian countries, China and Russia, he said.
Earlier, Albright had set the day’s tone, saying: "A nation cannot be built or rebuilt by military means alone. There’s a vast gap between the Marine Corps and the Peace Corps, and we need to fill that gap with agencies and people who specialize in law, development, peacemaking, and the creation of lasting democratic institutions."
Tom Perreillo, D-Va., a newly elected congressman from a traditionally conservative central Virginia district who recently was a national security consultant in Afghanistan, said the U.S. must expect that the next era for that country is "one that gets worse before it gets better."
Petraeus nodded in agreement.