David Howell Petraeus
Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1974
Engagements: • Afghanistan War (Operation Enduring Freedom) (2001 - present)• Iraq War (Operation Iraqi Freedom) (2003 - 2011)
David Howell Petraeus
The Early Years
David Howell Petraeus was born on 7 November 1952 in Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY, the son of Miriam (née Howell), a librarian, and Sixtus Petraeus, a sea captain. His mother was American and his father had emigrated to the U.S. from the Netherlands during the initial phase of World War II. Sixtus settled in Cornwall-on-Hudson, where David Petraeus grew up and graduated from Cornwall Central High School in 1970. Residents called him 'Peaches' in reference to his often-mispronounced last name and the nickname stuck with him as a cadet.
Petraeus then went on to the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point. He was on the intercollegiate soccer and ski teams; was a Cadet Captain on the Brigade staff; and was a "distinguished cadet" academically, graduating in the top 5% of the Class of 1974 (ranked 43rd overall). In the class yearbook, Petraeus was remembered as "always going for it in sports, academics, leadership, and even his social life." Petraeus graduated from West Point in 1974 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry.
Two months after graduation, Petraeus married Holly Knowlton, a graduate of Dickinson College and daughter of Army General William A. Knowlton, who was Superintendent of the USMA at the time. Holly, who is multi-lingual, was a National Merit Scholar in high school, and graduated summa cum laude from Dickinson College. They have a daughter and son, Anne and Stephen. Petraeus administered the oath of office at his son's 2009 commissioning into the Army after graduating from MIT.
Petraeus's official domicile in the U.S. is a rustic property in the small community of Springfield, NH, which his wife inherited from her family.
Education and Academia
Petraeus earned the General George C. Marshall Award as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Class of 1983 at Fort Leavenworth, KS. He subsequently earned an Master's degree in Public Administration in 1985 and a Ph.D. in International Relations in 1987 from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He then served as an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the USMA from 1985-87. His doctoral dissertation was entitled "The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era." He also completed a Military Fellowship at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service in 1994-95, although he was called away early to serve in Haiti as the Chief of Operations for the UN force there in early 1995.
From late 2005 through February 2007, Petraeus served as Commanding General of Fort Leavenworth, KS, and the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center (CAC) located there. As Commander of CAC, Petraeus was responsible for oversight of the Command and General Staff College and seventeen other schools, centers, and training programs; as well as for developing the Army's doctrinal manuals, training the Army's officers, and supervising the Army's center for the collection and dissemination of lessons learned. During his time at CAC, Petraeus and Marine Lieutenant General James N. Mattis jointly oversaw the publication of Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, the body of which was written by an extraordinarily diverse group of military officers, academics, human rights advocates, and journalists who had been assembled by Petraeus and Mattis. Additionally, at both Fort Leavenworth and throughout the military's schools and training programs, Petraeus integrated the study of Counterinsurgency into lesson plans and training exercises. In recognition of the fact that soldiers in Iraq often performed duties far different than those they trained for, Petraeus also stressed the importance of teaching soldiers how to think - as well as how to fight - and the need to foster flexibility and adaptability in leaders. He has been called "the world's leading expert in counterinsurgency warfare." Later, having refined his ideas on counterinsurgency based on the implementation of the new COIN doctrine in Iraq, he published both in Iraq, as well as in the Sep/Oct 2008 edition of Military Review, his "Commander's Counterinsurgency Guidance" to help guide leaders and units in the Multi-National Force-Iraq.
After his graduation from West Point in 1974, Petraeus completed Ranger School (Distinguished Honor Graduate and other honors). He was then assigned to the 509th Airborne Battalion Combat Team, a light infantry unit in Vicenza, Italy. Since that time, light infantry has been at the core of his career, punctuated by assignments to mechanized units, unit commands, staff assignments, and educational institutions. After leaving the 509th as a First Lieutenant (promoted in 1976), Petraeus began a brief association with mechanized units when he became Assistant Operations Officer on the staff of the 2nd Brigade, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Stewart, GA. In 1979, he assumed command of a company in the same division: Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized), and then served as that Battalion's Operations Officer, a Major's position that he held as a junior Captain (promoted in 1978). In 1988-89, he also served as Operations Officer to the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized)'s 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized) and its 1st Brigade.
In 1981, Petraeus became Aide-de-Camp to the Commanding General of the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized). He spent the next few years furthering his military and civilian education, including spending 1982-83 at Fort Leavenworth, KS, attending the Command and General Staff College. At graduation in 1983, he was the General George C. Marshall Award winner as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. From 1983-85 he was at Princeton (promoted to Major in 1985); and 1985-87 at West Point. After earning his Ph.D. and teaching at West Point, Petraeus continued up the rungs of the command ladder, serving as Military Assistant to General John Galvin, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. From there, he moved to the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) and then to a post as Aide and Assistant Executive Officer to the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, General Carl Vuono, in Washington, DC.
Upon his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel in 1991, Petraeus moved from the office of the Chief of Staff to Fort Campbell, KY, where he commanded the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)'s 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment from 1991-93. As Battalion Commander of the Iron Rakkasans, he suffered one of the more dramatic incidents in his career; in 1991 he was accidentally shot in the chest with an M-16 assault rifle during a live-fire exercise when a soldier tripped and his rifle discharged. He was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, where he was operated on by future U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The hospital released him early after he did fifty pushups without resting, just a few days after the accident.
During 1993-94, Petraeus continued his long association with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) as the Division's Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 (plans, operations and training) and installation Director of Plans, Training, and Mobilization (DPTM). In 1995, he was assigned to the United Nations Mission in Haiti Military Staff as its Chief Operations Officer during Operation Uphold Democracy (he was promoted to Colonel in 1995). His next command, from 1995-97, was the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, centered on the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. At that post, his Brigade's training cycle at Fort Polk's Joint Readiness Training Center for low-intensity warfare was chronicled by novelist and military enthusiast, Tom Clancy, in his book Airborne. From 1997-99 Petraeus served in the Pentagon as Executive Assistant to the Director of the Joint Staff and then to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Henry Shelton, who described Petraeus as "a high-energy individual who likes to lead from the front, in any field he is going into." In 1999, as a Brigadier General, Petraeus returned to the 82nd, serving as the Assistant Division Commander for Operations and then, briefly, as Acting Commanding General. During his time with the 82nd, he deployed to Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Spring, the continuous rotation of combat forces through Kuwait during the decade after the Gulf War.
From the 82nd, he moved on to serve as Chief of Staff of XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg during 2000-01. In 2000, Petraeus suffered his second major injury, when, during a civilian skydiving jump, his parachute collapsed at low altitude due to a hook turn, resulting in a hard landing that broke his pelvis. He was selected for promotion to Major General in 2001. While a Brigadier General, during 2001-02 Petraeus served a ten-month tour in Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of Operation Joint Forge. In Bosnia, he was the NATO Stabilization Force Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations as well as the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Joint Interagency Counter-Terrorism Task Force, a command created after the September 11 attacks to add counterterrorism capability to the U.S. forces attached to the NATO command in Bosnia. In 2004, he was promoted to Lieutenant General. In 2007, he was promoted to General. On 23 April 2008, Secretary of Defense Gates announced that President Bush was nominating General Petraeus to command U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), headquartered in Tampa, FL. The nomination received Senate confirmation on 30 June 2010 and Petraeus took over command from temporary commander Lieutenant-General Sir Nick Parker on 4 July 2010.
Involvement in the Iraq War
In 2003, Petraeus, then a Major General, saw combat for the first time when he commanded the 101st Airborne Division during V Corps's drive to Baghdad. In a campaign chronicled in detail by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Atkinson of The Washington Post in the book In the Company of Soldiers, Petraeus led his division through fierce fighting south of Baghdad, in Karbala, Hilla and Najaf. Following the fall of Baghdad, the division conducted the longest heliborne assault on record in order to reach Ninawa Province, where it would spend much of 2003. The 1st Brigade was responsible for the area south of Mosul, the 2nd Brigade for the city itself, and the 3rd Brigade for the region stretching toward the Syrian border. An oft-repeated story of Petraeus's time with the 101st is his asking of embedded Washington Post reporter Rick Atkinson to "Tell me how this ends," an anecdote he and other journalists have used to portray Petraeus as an early recognizer of the difficulties that would follow the fall of Baghdad.
In Mosul, a city of nearly two million people, Petraeus and the 101st employed classic counterinsurgency methods to build security and stability, including conducting targeted kinetic operations and using force judiciously. The 101st jump-started the economy, built local security forces, staged elections for the city council within weeks of their arrival, oversaw a program of public works, reinvigorated the political process, and launched 4,500 reconstruction projects. This approach can be attributed to Petraeus, who had been steeped in nation-building during his previous tours in nations such as Bosnia and Haiti and thus approached nation-building as a central military mission and who was "prepared to act while the civilian authority in Baghdad was still getting organized," according to Michael Gordon of The New York Times. Some Iraqis gave Petraeus the nickname 'King David,' which was later adopted by some of his colleagues. Newsweek has stated that "It's widely accepted that no force worked harder to win Iraqi hearts and minds than the 101st Air Assault Division led by Petraeus."
One of the General's major public works was the restoration and re-opening of the University of Mosul. Petraeus strongly supported the use of commanders' discretionary funds for public works, telling Coalition Provisional Authority director L. Paul Bremer "Money is ammunition" during the director's first visit to Mosul. Petraeus' often repeated catchphrase was later incorporated into official military briefings and was also eventually incorporated into the U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Field Manual drafted with Petraeus's oversight.
In February 2004, the 101st was replaced in Mosul by I Corps headquarters, but operational forces consisted solely of a unit roughly one quarter its size-a Stryker brigade. The following summer, the Governor of Nineveh Province was assassinated and most of the Sunni Arab Provincial Council members walked out in the ensuing selection of the new governor, leaving Kurdish members in charge of a predominantly Sunni Arab province. Later that year, the local police commander defected to the Kurdish Minister of Interior in Irbil after repeated assassination attempts against him, attacks on his house, and the kidnapping of his sister. The largely Sunni Arab police collapsed under insurgent attacks launched at the same time Coalition Forces attacked Fallujah in November 2004.
There are differing explanations for the apparent collapse of the police force in Mosul. The Guardian quoted an anonymous U.S. diplomat saying "Mosul basically collapsed after he the 101st [Petraeus] left."Former diplomat Peter Galbraith criticized Petraeus' command of the 101st, saying his achievements have been exaggerated and his reputation is inflated. He wrote for The New York Review of Books that "Petraeus ignored warnings from America's Kurdish allies that he was appointing the wrong people to key positions in Mosul's local government and police." On the other hand, in the book Fiasco, Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks wrote that "Mosul was quiet while he (Petraeus) was there, and likely would have remained so had his successor had as many troops as he had-and as much understanding of counterinsurgency techniques." Ricks went on to note that "the population-oriented approach Petraeus took in Mosul in 2003 would be the one the entire U.S. Army in Iraq was trying to adopt in 2006." Time columnist Joe Klein largely agreed with Ricks, writing that the Stryker brigade that replaced the 101st "didn't do any of the local governance that Petraeus had done." Moving away from counterinsurgency principles, "they were occupiers, not builders." New York Times reporter Michael Gordon and retired General Bernard Trainor echoed Ricks and Klein, including in their book Cobra II a quote that Petraeus "did it right and won over Mosul."
Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq
In June 2004, less than six months after the 101st returned to the U.S., Petraeus was promoted to Lieutenant General and became the first Commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq. This newly created command had responsibility for training, equipping, and mentoring Iraq's growing Army, Police, and other security forces as well as developing Iraq's security institutions and building associated infrastructure, such as training bases, police stations, and border forts. During Petraeus's fifteen months at the helm of MNSTC-I, he stood up a three-star command virtually from scratch and in the midst of serious fighting in places like Fallujah, Mosul, and Najaf. By the end of his command, some 100,000 Iraqi Security Forces had been trained; Iraqi Army and Police were being employed in combat; countless reconstruction projects had been executed; and hundreds of thousands of weapons, body armor, and other equipment had been distributed in what was described as the "largest military procurement and distribution effort since World War II," at a cost of over $11 billion.
In September 2004, Petraeus wrote an article for The Washington Post in which he described the tangible progress being made in building Iraq's security forces from the ground up while also noting the many challenges associated with doing so. "Although there have been reverses -- not to mention horrific terrorist attacks," Petraeus wrote, "there has been progress in the effort to enable Iraqis to shoulder more of the load for their own security, something they are keen to do." Some of the challenges involved in building security forces had to do with accomplishing this task in the midst of a tough insurgency-or, as Petraeus wrote, "making the mission akin to repairing an aircraft while in flight -- and while being shot at." Other challenges included allegations of corruption as well as efforts to improve Iraq's supply accountability procedures. For example, according to former Interim Iraq Governing Council member Ali A. Allawi in The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace, "under the very noses of the security transition command, officials both inside and outside the ministry of defense were planning to embezzle most, if not all, of the procurement budget of the army." The Washington Post stated in August 2007 that the Pentagon had lost track of approximately 30% of weapons supplied to the Iraqi security forces. The General Accounting Office said that the weapons distribution was haphazard, rushed, and did not follow established procedures-particularly from 2004 to 2005, when security training was led by Petraeus and Iraq's security forces began to see combat in places like Najaf and Samarra. Over a hundred thousand AK-47 assault rifles and pistols were delivered to Iraqi forces without full documentation, and some of the missing weapons may have been abducted by Iraqi insurgents. Thousands of body armor pieces have also been lost. The Independent has stated that the military believed "the situation on the ground was so urgent, and the agency responsible for recording the transfers of arms so short staffed, that field commanders had little choice in the matter." The Pentagon conducted its own investigation, and accountability was subsequently regained for many of the weapons.
Following his second tour in Iraq, Petraeus authored a widely-read article in Military Review, listing fourteen observations he had made during two tours in Iraq, including: do not do too much with your own hands, money is ammunition, increasing the number of stakeholders is critical to success, success in a counterinsurgency requires more than just military operations, ultimate success depends on local leaders, there is no substitute for flexible and adaptable leaders, and, finally, a leader's most important task is to set the right tone.
Multi-National Force - Iraq (Spring 2007)
In January 2007, as part of his overhauled Iraq strategy, President George W. Bush announced that Petraeus would succeed General George Casey as Commanding General of MNF-I to lead all U.S. troops in Iraq. On 23 January, the Senate Armed Services Committee held Petraeus' nomination hearing, during which he testified on his ideas for Iraq, particularly the strategy underpinning the "surge" of forces. During his opening statement, Petraeus stated that "security of the population, especially in Baghdad, and in partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces, will be the focus of the military effort." He went on to state that security will require establishing a persistent presence, especially in Iraq's most threatened neighborhoods. He also noted the critical importance of helping Iraq increase its governmental capacity, develop employment programs, and improve daily life for its citizens.
Throughout Petraeus' tenure in Iraq, Multi-National Force-Iraq endeavored to work with the Government of Iraq to carry out this strategy that focuses on securing the population. Doing so required establishing-and maintaining-persistent presence by living among the population, separating reconcilable Iraqis from irreconcilable enemies, relentlessly pursuing the enemy, taking back sanctuaries and then holding areas that have been cleared, and continuing to develop Iraq's security forces and to support local security forces, often called Sons of Iraq, and to integrate them into the Iraqi Army and Police and other employment programs.
The strategy underpinning the "surge" of forces, as well as the ideas Petraeus included in FM 3-24, have been referred to by some journalists and politicians as the "Petraeus Doctrine;" although the surge itself was proposed a few months before Petraeus took command. Despite the misgivings of most Democratic, and a few Republican, Senators over the proposed implementation of the "Petraeus Doctrine" in Iraq, specifically regarding the troop surge, Petraeus was unanimously confirmed as a four-star General and MNF-I Commander on 27 January.
Before leaving for Iraq, Petraeus recruited a number of highly educated military officers, nicknamed "Petraeus guys" or "designated thinkers," to advise him as commander, including Colonel Mike Meese, head of the Social Sciences Department at West Point and Colonel H.R. McMaster, famous for his leadership at the Battle of 73 Easting in the Gulf War and in the pacification of Tal Afar more recently, as well as for his doctoral dissertation on Vietnam-era civil-military relations entitled Dereliction of Duty. While most of Petraeus's closest advisers are American military officers, he also hired Lieutenant Colonel David Kilcullen of the Australian Army, who was working for the U.S. State Department. Upon his return from Iraq, Kilcullen published The Accidental Guerrilla, and has discussed the central front of the war and lessons learned in Iraq in The Washington Post.
101st Airborne Division
After taking command of MNF-I on 10 February 2007, Petraeus inspected U.S. and Iraqi units all over Iraq, visiting outposts in greater Baghdad, Tikrit, Baquba, Ramadi, Mosul, Kirkuk, Bayji, Samarra, Basrah and as far west as al-Hit and Al Qaim. In April 2007, Petraeus made his first visit to Washington as MNF-I Commander, reporting to President Bush and Congress on the progress of the "surge" and the overall situation in Iraq. During this visit he met privately with members of Congress and reportedly argued against setting a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.
By late May 2007, Congress did not impose any timetables in war funding legislation for troop withdrawal. The enacted legislation did mandate that Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, deliver a report to Congress by 15 September 2007, detailing their assessment of the military, economic and political situation of Iraq.
In June 2007, Petraeus stated in an interview that there were "astonishing signs of normalcy" in Baghdad, and this comment drew criticism from Senate majority leader Harry Reid. In the same interview, however, Petraeus stated that "many problems remain" and he noted the need to help the Iraqis "stitch back together the fabric of society that was torn during the height of sectarian violence" in late 2006. Petraeus also warned that he expected that the situation in Iraq would require the continued deployment of the elevated troop level of more than 150,000 beyond September 2007; he also stated that U.S. involvement in Iraq could last years afterward. These statements are representative of the fact that throughout their time in Iraq, Petraeus and Crocker remained circumspect and refused to classify themselves as optimists or pessimists, noting, instead, that they were realists and that the reality in Iraq was very hard. They also repeatedly emphasized the importance of forthright reports and an unvarnished approach. Indeed, Petraeus' realistic approach and assessments were lauded during the McLaughlin Group's 2008 Year-End Awards, when Monica Crowley nominated Petraeus for the most honest person of the year, stating, "...[H]e spoke about the great successes of the surge in Iraq, but he always tempered it, never sugar-coated it."
Multi-National Force - Iraq (Summer and Fall 2007)
In July 2007, the White House submitted to Congress the interim report on Iraq, which stated that coalition forces had made satisfactory progress on 6 of 18 benchmarks set by Congress. On 7 September 2007, in a letter addressed to the troops he was commanding, Petraeus wrote that much military progress had been made, but that the national level political progress that was hoped for had not been achieved. Petraeus' Report to Congress on the Situation in Iraq was delivered to Congress on 10 September 2007.
On 15 August 2007, The Los Angeles Times stated that, according to unnamed administration officials, the report "would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government." However, Petraeus declared in his testimony to Congress that "I wrote this testimony myself." He further elaborated that his testimony to Congress "has not been cleared by, nor shared with, anyone in the Pentagon, the White House, or Congress."
In his September Congressional testimony, Petraeus stated that "As a bottom line up front, the military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met." He cited numerous factors for this progress, to include the fact that Coalition and Iraqi Forces had dealt significant blows to Al-Qaeda Iraq and had disrupted Shia militias, that ethno-sectarian violence had been reduced, and that the tribal rejection of Al-Qaeda had spread from Anbar Province to numerous other locations across Iraq. Based on this progress and additional progress expected to be achieved, Petraeus recommended drawing down the surge forces from Iraq and gradually transitioning increased responsibilities to Iraqi Forces, as their capabilities and conditions on the ground permitted.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada argued Petraeus' "plan is just more of the same" and "is neither a drawdown or a change in mission that we need." Democratic Representative Robert Wexler of Florida accused Petraeus of "cherry-picking statistics" and "massaging information." Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos of California, called the General and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker "Two of our nation's most capable public servants" and said Democrats feel "esteem for their professionalism." He also said that "We can no longer take their assertions on Iraq at face value;"concluding, "We need to get out of Iraq, for that country's sake as well as our own."
Republican Presidential candidate Duncan Hunter called the report "a candid, independent assessment given with integrity." Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona stated that "I commend General Petraeus for his honest and forthright assessment of the situation in Iraq." Anti-war Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska criticized the report while praising Petraeus, saying "It's not your fault, general... It's not Ambassador Crocker's fault. It's this administration's fault." A USA Today/Gallup poll taken after Petraeus' report to Congress showed virtually no change in public opinion toward the war. A Pew Research Center survey found that most Americans who have heard about the report approve of Petraeus' recommendations.
On 20 September, the Senate passed an amendment by Republican John Cornyn III of Texas designed to "strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus." Cornyn drafted the amendment in response to a controversial full-page ad by the liberal group Moveon.org in the 10 September 2007, edition of The New York Times. All forty-nine Republican Senators and twenty-two Democratic Senators voted in support. The House passed a similar resolution by a 341-79 vote on 26 September.
In December 2007, The Washington Post's "Fact Checker" stated that "While some of Petraeus's statistics are open to challenge, his claims about a general reduction in violence have been borne out over subsequent months. It now looks as if Petraeus was broadly right on this issue at least."
Based on the conditions on the ground in October 2007, Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker revised their campaign plan for Iraq. In recognition of the progress made against Al Qaeda in Iraq, one of the major points would be "shifting the U.S. military effort to focus more on countering Shiite militias."
Multi-National Force - Iraq (Spring 2008)
On 18 February 2008, USA Today stated that "the U.S. effort has shown more success" and that, after the number of troops reached its peak in fall 2007, "U.S. deaths were at their lowest levels since the 2003 invasion, civilian casualties were down, and street life was resuming in Baghdad." In light of the significant reduction in violence and as the surge brigades began to redeploy without replacement, Petraeus characterized the progress as tenuous, fragile, and reversible and repeatedly reminded all involved that much work remains to be done. During an early February trip to Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates endorsed the idea of a period of consolidation and evaluation upon completion of the withdrawal of surge brigades from Iraq.
Petraeus and Crocker continued these themes at their two full days of testimony before Congress on 8 and 9 April. During his opening statement, Petraeus stated that "there has been significant but uneven security progress in Iraq," while also noting that "the situation in certain areas is still unsatisfactory and that innumerable challenges remain" and that "the progress made since last spring is fragile and reversible." He also recommended a continuation of the drawdown of surge forces as well as a 45-day period of consolidation and evaluation after the final surge brigade has redeployed in late July. Analysts for USA Today and The New York Times stated that the hearings "lacked the suspense of last September's debate," but they did include sharp questioning as well as both skepticism and praise from various Congressional leaders.
In late May 2008, the Senate Armed Services Committee held nomination hearings for Petraeus and Lieutenant General Ray Odierno to lead U.S. Central Command and Multi-National Force-Iraq, respectively. During the hearings, Committee Chairman Carl Levin praised these two men, stating that "we owe Gen. Petraeus and Gen. Odierno a debt of gratitude for the commitment, determination and strength that they brought to their areas of responsibility. And regardless of how long the administration may choose to remain engaged in the strife in that country, our troops are better off with the leadership these two distinguished soldiers provide." During his opening statement, Petraeus discussed four principles that would guide his efforts if confirmed as CENTCOM Commander: seeking to strengthen international partnerships; taking a "whole of government" approach; pursuing comprehensive efforts and solutions; and, finally, both supporting efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and ensuring readiness for possible contingency operations in the future. Petraeus also noted that during the week before his testimony, the number of security incidents in Iraq was the lowest in over four years. After Petraeus returned to Baghdad, and despite the continued drawdown of surge forces as well as recent Iraqi-led operations in places like Basrah, Mosul, and Baghdad, the number of security incidents in Iraq remained at their lowest level in over four years.
Multi-National Force - Iraq (Summer and Fall 2008)
In September 2008, Petraeus gave an interview to BBC News stating that he did not think using the term "victory" in describing the Iraq war was appropriate, saying "This is not the sort of struggle where you take a hill, plant the flag and go home to a victory parade... it's not war with a simple slogan."
Petraeus had discussed the term 'victory' before in March 2008, saying to NPR News that "an Iraq that is at peace with itself, at peace with its neighbors, that has a government that is representative of-and responsive to-its citizenry and is a contributing member of the global community" could arguably be called 'victory.'" On the eve of his change of command, in September 2008, Petraeus stated that "I don't use terms like victory or defeat... I'm a realist, not an optimist or a pessimist. And the reality is that there has been significant progress but there are still serious challenges."
On 16 September 2008, Petraeus formally gave over his command in Iraq to General Raymond T. Odierno in a government ceremony presided over by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. During the ceremony, Gates stated that Petraeus "played a historic role" and created the "translation of a great strategy into a great success in very difficult circumstances." Gates also told Petraeus he believed "history will regard you as one of our nation's greatest battle captains." He presented Petraeus with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. At the event, Petraeus mentioned the difficulty in getting the Sons of Iraq absorbed in the central Government of Iraq and warned about future consequences if the effort stalls. Indeed, when speaking of these and other challenges, Petraeus is the first to note that "the gains [achieved in Iraq] are tenuous and unlikely to survive without an American effort that outlasts his tenure." Even so, as Petraeus departed Iraq, it was clear to all that he was leaving a much different Iraq than the one that existed when he took command in February 2007. As described by Dexter Filkins, "violence has plummeted from its apocalyptic peaks, Iraqi leaders are asserting themselves, and streets that once seemed dead are flourishing with life." This is also illustrated by the Iraq Trends charts that the MNF-I produces weekly. The 3 January 2009 "Iraq Trends Chart" clearly depicts, over time, the increases in incidents followed by the sharp decline as described by Dexter Filkens and others.
General Petraeus's critical role in Iraq is widely acknowledged. In a recent introduction of Petraeus at an ROTC commissioning ceremony on 1 June 2010, Princeton President Shirley Tilghman noted that, "Although he has distinguished himself in many roles since receiving his commission as a young West Point cadet in 1974, his 48 months of service in Iraq, including 19 as commanding general, were of historic proportions as he brought comparative stability to a country so riddled with violence that it threatened to disintegrate."
U.S. Central Command (Fall 2008 to Summer 2010)
On 31 October 2008, Petraeus assumed command of the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) headquartered in Tampa, FL. Petraeus was responsible for U.S. operations in 20 countries spreading from Egypt to Pakistan-including Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. During his time at CENTCOM, Petraeus advocated that countering the terrorist threats in the CENTCOM region requires more than just counter-terrorism forces, demanding instead whole-of-governments, comprehensive approaches akin to those of counterinsurgency. Petraeus reiterated this view in a 2009 interview published in Parade magazine. In a recent interview for Newsweek magazine's "Interview Issue: The View From People Who Make a Difference," Petraeus expressed his support for President Obama's announced Afghanistan strategy and discussed his view that reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan should for the time being occur "at the lower and mid-levels."
In mid-August 2009, Petraeus established the Afghanistan-Pakistan Center of Excellence within the USCENTCOM Directorate of Intelligence to provide leadership to coordinate, integrate and focus analysis efforts in support of operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In his 16 March 2010 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Petraeus described the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a challenge to U.S. interests in the region. According to the testimony, the conflict was "fomenting anti-American sentiment" due to "a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel." This was widely commented on in the media. When questioned by journalist Philip Klein, Petraeus said the original reporter "picked apart" and "spun" his speech. He believes there are many important factors standing in the way of peace, including "a whole bunch of extremist organizations, some of which by the way deny Israel's right to exist. There's a country that has a nuclear program who denies that the Holocaust took place. So again we have all these factors in there. This [Israel] is just one."
In March 2010, Petraeus visited the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College to speak about Iraq and Afghanistan. Petraeus spoke a few days after the seventh anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, noting the successful changes in Iraq since the U.S. troop surge. The visit to Saint Anselm created rumors that Petraeus was contemplating a run for the Presidency; however, he denied the speculation saying that he was not aware that the college has been the site of numerous presidential debates.
Toward the close of his tenure as CENTCOM Commander, including in his interview published in Vanity Fair, Petraeus discussed the effort to determine and send to Afghanistan the right "inputs" for success there; these inputs include several structures and organizations that proved important in Iraq, including "an engagement cell to support reconciliation…a finance cell to go after financing of the enemy…[a] really robust detainee-operations task force, a rule-of-law task force, an energy-fusion cell-all these other sort of nonstandard missions that are very important."
On 7 May 2010, Petraeus announced that Times Square bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad, is a "lone wolf" terrorist who did not work with others. On 10 May 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the evidence shows the Pakistani Taliban directed this plot.
Commander of US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan
On 23 June 2010, President Obama announced that he would nominate Petraeus to succeed General Stanley A. McChrystal as the Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. The change of command was prompted by McChrystal's comments about the Obama administration and its policies in Afghanistan during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. After being confirmed by the Senate on 30 June, Petraeus formally assumed command on 4 July. During the assumption of command remarks, Petraeus provided his vision and goals to NATO, the members of his command, and his Afghan partners. As he was known to do while the Commander in Iraq, Petraeus delivered his first Letter to the Troops on the same day he assumed command.
On 1 August 2010, shortly after the disclosure of the Afghan war logs on Wikileaks, Petraeus issued his updated Tactical Directive for the prevention of civilian casualties, providing guidance and intent for the use of force by the U.S. military units operating in Afghanistan (replacing the 1 July 2009 version). This directive reinforced the concept of "disciplined use of force in partnership with Afghan Security Forces" in the fight against insurgent forces.
We must never forget that the center of gravity in this struggle is the Afghan people; it is they who will ultimately determine the future of Afghanistan ... Prior to the use of fires, the commander approving the strike must determine that no civilians are present. If unable to assess the risk of civilian presence, fires are prohibited, except under of the following two conditions (specific conditions deleted due to operational security; however, they have to do with the risk to ISAF and Afghan forces).
In the October 2010 issue of Army Magazine, Petraeus discusses changes that have taken place over the last 18 months including: Setting the Conditions for Progress; Capitalizing on the Conditions for Progress; Improving Security; Supporting Governance Expansion; Promoting Economic Development; and discussing How the Troops are Carrying Out a Difficult Mission.
In early March 2011, Petraeus made a distinctive mark in the public and intergovernmental faces in this theater and in international military affairs in general with a swift apology following a NATO helicopter airstrike under his command which resulted in the deaths of 9 Afghan boys, aged 9 to 15, and the wounding of a 10th, 11 years old, as they gathered firewood in Eastern Afghanistan. Two sets of brothers were among the dead. In a statement, Petraeus said, "We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and, most importantly, the surviving family members of those killed by our actions. These deaths should have never happened." Several journalists and observers noted the humanitarian candor in Petraeus' open regrets. Petraeus had already shown other instances of such ethical temporality in other public addresses, which have been a quiet hallmark in his career, including in inter-departmental affairs with other branches of the U.S. armed services. On 15 March 2011, Petraeus along with the Honorable Under Secretary of Defense (Policy) Michele Flournoy, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and then, on the following day, testified before Congress on the developments in Afghanistan.
CIA Director Nomination
On Thursday, 28 April 2011, President Barack Obama announced that he had nominated Petraeus to become the new Director of the CIA. On 27 June 2011, Secretary of Defense Gates sent a note of congratulations along with his appreciation of Petraeus' four decades of service to the nation and his continuing service in Gates' former position as Director of the CIA. His nomination to become the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency was confirmed by the U.S. Senate 94-0 on 30 June 2011.
General Petraeus was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer in February 2009 and underwent two months of successful radiation treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The diagnosis and treatment was not publicly disclosed until October 2009 because Petraeus and his family regarded his illness as a personal matter that did not interfere with the performance of his duties.
On 15 June 2010, Petraeus momentarily fainted while being questioned by the Senate Armed Services Committee. He quickly recovered and was able to walk and exit the room without assistance. He attributed the episode to possible dehydration.
Other Noteworthy Recognition
● Petraeus has garnered numerous accolades in recent years. In the past, he has been awarded the 2nd level of the French Legion of Honor in the grade of Officer. He will now be awarded the medal in the 3rd level in the grade of Commander. A total of 17,032 people have been awarded Officer and only 3,009 awarded Commander. Only 72 people (including all those in France) will be awarded the Legion of Honor in rank of Commander in 2011.
● Time magazine has again named Petraeus in the Time Top 100 Most Influential People in the World.
● According to Defense Secretary Gates, a decade of war has produced one of the most battle-tested, adaptive and innovative generations of military leaders the U.S. has ever known. At the pinnacle of that group is U.S. Army General David Petraeus. In addition, he is the premier soldier-scholar of his time, an officer who has twice altered the course of military history for the better and an American patriot worthy of our deepest gratitude and respect.
● In early January 2011, Pete Hegseth and Wade Zirkle from Vets for Freedom wrote an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal making a claim that General Petraeus should be promoted to Five-Star rank, which would make him General of the Army. In addition, a Facebook page has been dedicated to this effort.
In 2010, General Petraeus was:
● Named number 12 of 50 people who mattered in 2010 by the New Statesmen magazine
● Named a Top Global Thinker of 2010 by Foreign Policy magazine
● Recipient of American Enterprise Institute's Irving Kristol Award
● Recipient of Citadel Business School's Leader of Principle Award
● Recipient of the AUSA Massachusetts Bay Area Chapter's Person of the Year Award
● Recipient of HELP USA's Award for Veterans
● Recipient of Princeton University's James Madison Medal
● Recipient of the Lotos Club's Award of Distinction and Medal of Merit
● Recipient of the Pilgrims of the United States' Medallion for Service to the Nation
● Recipient of the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum's 2010 Intrepid Freedom Award
● Recipient of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Dwight D. Eisenhower Award
● Recipient of the American Political Science Association's Hubert H. Humphrey Award
● Named number 8 of the "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers" in the November 2010 issue of Foreign Policy
● Recipient of the USO Distinguished Service Award
● Awarded the George Kennan Award by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy
● Chosen by Barbara Walters as the Most Fascinating Person of 2010. Walters called the top commander in Afghanistan "an American hero"
● Chosen as "one of Time magazine's 50 "People Who Mattered" in December 2010
In 2009, General Petraeus was:
● Recipient of the Sam M. Gibbons Lifetime Achievement Award
● Recipient of American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal
● Recipient of the Atlantic Council's Military Leadership Award
● Recipient of the Union League Club of Philadelphia's Abraham Lincoln Award
● Recipient of the National Father's Day Committee's Father of the Year Award
● Recipient of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy's George F. Kennan Award
● Recipient of the National Defense Industrial Association's Eisenhower Award
● Recipient of the Office of Strategic Service Society's William J. Donovan Award
● Recipient of the No Greater Sacrifice Freedom Award
● Recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's Distinguished Citizen Award
● Named as one of the "75 Best People in the World" in the October 2009 issue of Esquire
● Named as a Distinguished Member of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
● Named Honorary President of the 7th Armored Division Association
In 2008, General Petraeus was:
● Selected as one of the World's Top 100 Public Intellectuals in a poll conducted by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines
● Recipient of the Business Executives for National Security's 2008 Eisenhower Award
● Named as the 2008 Man of the Year by the Static Line Association
● Named as "America's Most Respected Soldier" by Der Spiegel
● Named as the "Leader of the Year: Right Man, Right Time" by GQ (December 2008)
● Named the 16th Most Powerful Person in the World by Newsweek in its 20 December 2008 issue
● Named the "Public Intellectual of the Year" by Prospect Magazine
In 2007, General Petraeus was:
● Named as one of the 100 Most Influential Leaders and Revolutionaries of the Year by Time, as well as one of its four runners up for Time Person of the Year
● Named the second most influential American conservative by The Daily Telegraph as well as The Daily Telegraph's 2007 Man of the Year
● Selected as one of America's top leaders by US News and World Report
Medals, Awards, Badges & Tabs
Defense Distinguished Service Medal with 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
U.S. Insignia & Patches
U.S. Forces Afghanistan Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
Foreign Medals and Awards (Not Worn)
Gold Award of the Iraqi Order of the Date Palm
British Army Parachutist Badge (Junior Level)
U.S. Civilian Awards
State Department Secretary's Distinguished Service Award
Foreign Civilian Awards
Commander of the French Legion of Honor
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
On 30 June 2011, Petraeus was unanimously confirmed as the next Director of the CIA by the U.S. Senate 94-0. Petraeus relinquished command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan on 18 July 2011, and retired from the U.S. Army on 31 August 2011.
On 9 November 2012, General Petraeus resigned from his position as Director of the CIA, citing his extramarital affair which was reportedly discovered in the course of an FBI investigation.
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