Petraeus says Obama told him Iraq surge was a success

Gen. David Petraeus said that President Barack Obama acknowledged that the troop surge in the Iraq war was a success during deliberations over whether to enact a troop surge in Afghanistan.

"He did in fact, although I tell you we spent a lot of time taking the rearview mirrors off the bus," said Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, when asked about Obama's position on the Iraq surge on "Fox News Sunday."

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Petraeus, who authored the surge in Iraq that began in 2007 under President George W. Bush, verified reports in The New York Times on Obama's discussions about the Afghanistan strategy were accurate. The Times reported that Obama said to Petraeus, "What I'm looking for is a surge."

Obama announced last week that he has ordered 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan over the next six months and that he plans to begin pulling them out by July 2011.

Obama had opposed the Iraq war when it started in 2003 and the surge in 2007, while Petraeus authored and implemented the Iraq surge, which committed more U.S. troops to a more aggressive counter-insurgency strategy.

Many of Obama's former Democratic colleagues have yet to back his decision to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to about 100,000.

"I'm skeptical as to whether 30,000 more troops will make a difference," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on Fox.
"We have more than 200,000 now in U.S., NATO and Afghan forces."

Petraeus said that the latest Afghanistan discussion tested "each other's thoughts and principles and ideas." Petraeus said that Obama, as he was trying to decide on a new strategy for the Afghanistan mission, asked about an important component of the Iraq surge, the reconciliation between insurgents and the government.

"There's a bit of some team-building that took place in all of this as well," Petraeus said.

Obama also told his advisers that he wanted to move up the timeline of getting more U.S. troops into and out of Afghanistan.

"What he wanted is to pull this bell curve that show this deployment of forces to the left," Petraeus said Sunday.

Petraeus also voiced flexibility on the president's date for the start of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, echoing remarks by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Petraeus said that any withdrawal would be "conditions-based, certainly."

"There's no timeline, no ramp, nothing like that," he said.

But he also defended Obama's decision to set a date for pulling the troops out, saying that it would send a message of "resolve" and "urgency" to officials in both Afghanistan and the United States.

"This doesn't trigger a rush to the exits," Petraeus said. "It triggers a beginning of transition to Afghan security forces and, over time, a beginning of transition to Afghan government elements as well."

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