Petraeus hedges on Bergdahl swap

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Former CIA Director David Petraeus refused on Monday to say whether he agreed with President Obama’s decision to swap five Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. 

“I think it was a very, very tough and a very, very close call, and I think that’s where I’d leave it,” the former general said Monday on Fox Business’ “Cavuto: Coast to Coast.”

{mosads}Still, Petraeus said it’s important for America to never leave a soldier behind, no matter why Bergdahl allegedly walked off of his Army base in 2009.

“That’s a hugely important statement and it’s a reality, it has to be. Going to the lengths that we did in that case is at least understandable, although as I said it was a very very tough call,” he said.

“The way he fell into the enemies hand is immaterial, he’s one of ours, he’s held, he was a prisoner, hostage, and we needed to get him back.”

The Bergdahl swap for what many refer to as the “Taliban Five,” is back in the news over the past week just more than a year after the deal, as the Qatari government monitoring the prisoners after their release agreed to continue to restrict their travel and monitor them.

Petraeus expressed confidence that the Qataris will honor that assurance, noting that soldiers have “worked well” with the country at the U.S. Central Command Forward Headquarters in the country.

Petraeus was Obama’s CIA director from 2011 to 2012, before resigning from office after an extra-marital affair with an author became public.

As the conversation shifted to the administration’s handling of the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said that while coalition forces will take back the strategic city of Ramadi within “days or weeks,” he questioned the administration’s handing of the war.

“Having said that doesn’t mean I strongly support everything that has been done or think that it has been enough,” Petraeus said.

The White House and many political leaders have referred to ISIS’ takeover of Ramadi last month as a significant setback for coalition forces.

Petraeus said that the U.S. should send more military advisors to serve at posts lower down in the command structure. He floated the idea of adding joint tactical air controllers, JTACs, soldiers who direct airstrikes from the ground. A number of lawmakers have also called to add JTACs to help give U.S. forces on the ground better intelligence

He added that the U.S. needs to evaluate the political and military leadership within Iraq to promote a more inclusive government. Former dictator Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Muslim, and filled his government with predominately Sunnis, which angered the majority Shia population. After he was deposed, Shias took over and ostracized Sunnis.  

“Do we have the right military and political leaders in Baghdad to be able to support those Iraqi leaders that are truly inclusive, are willing to bring the Sunni Arabs back into society,” Petraeus asked, noting that new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a Shia, has shown a willingness to incorporate Sunnis back into the government.

“It’s much easier said than done but if it can’t be done, Iraq can’t be done.”


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