Today on Fox News Sunday, Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, agreed that lawmakers will be able to have a “reasonable and a realistic sense” of whether the escalation is “working or not working” by September. “I’ve said that all along. I started saying that back in January. I think we’ll have had by then our forces in the mix for a good several months.”
Later in the show, however, Petraeus admitted that he didn’t expect the “surge” to be done by September, the date set for Petraeus’ supposedly make-it or break-it report to Congress. Asked by host Chris Wallace whether he believed “the job would be done by the surge by September,” Petraeus responded, “I do not, no.” Watch it:
Asked in a follow up question if that meant “enhanced troop levels would continue for some months after that and into 2008,” Petraeus refused to answer. “Again, premature right now,” said Petraeus. “A number of options out there. And I’m not about to announce what we might do here today, I’m afraid.”
Petraeus then went on to endorse the “Korea model” for Iraq, which envisions keeping troops in the country for decades. “[T]ypically, I think historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or ten years,” said Petraeus. “I think in general that that’s probably a fairly realistic assessment,” Petraeus said of the Korea comparison.
WALLACE: Let’s explore that. General Odierno, your number two, said this weekend that the Washington politicians need to give the surge more time. Do you think by September you’re going to “have a reasonable and a realistic sense of how the surge has gone, whether, in fact, it is working or not working?
PETRAEUS: I think we will have a sense of that, Chris. i’ve said that all along. I started saying that back in January. i think we’ll have had by then our forces in the mix for a good several months. We’ll have some sense of how we have done in these various sanctuaries that al Qaeda has had in the past that we are now entering for the first time in which we will endeavor to stay. we’ll have a sense of how we’ve done in some of these tough neighborhoods in Baghdad and how we are doing also, all of this in partnership with our Iraqi security force counterparts in Diyalla province and some of the other areas of the country. [...]
WALLACE: There are reports that you and General Odierno would like the surge to continue until at least early 2008, that if it’s going to work, it needs to continue into early next year. is that true?
PETRAEUS: We’ve got a number of different options that we have looked at, Chris, and it really is premature at this point in time to try to prejudge that. again, i would suspect that late in the summer, early September, that we will provide some recommendations on the way ahead up our chain of command as well.
WALLACE: But you surely don’t think the job would be done by the surge by September, do you, sir?
PETRAEUS: I do not, no. I think that we have a lot of heavy lifting to do. The damage done by the sectarian violence in the fall and winter of 2006 and early 2007, as I mentioned, was substantial. And this is a tough effort.
WALLACE: So then it would be fair to assume that the enhanced troop levels would continue for some months after that and into 2008.
PETRAEUS: Chris, again, premature right now. A number of options out there. And not about to announce what we might do here today, I’m afraid. [...]
WALLACE: Let me look out even further than that, General. Some administration officials have talked about needing to make and basically squaring with the American public saying, look, this is going to be a long-term commitment and comparing it to the situation in South Korea where we have had thousands of troops for decades. Do you see this to stabilize and achieve what we want in Iraq as that kind of a long-term commitment?
PETRAEUS: Well, I think the real question, Chris, is at what level. I think — I think just about everybody out there recognizes that a situation like this with the many, many challenges that Iraq is contending with is not one that’s going to be resolved in a year or even two years. in fact, typically, I think historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or ten years. The question is, of course, at what level, how much will we have to continue to contribute during that time, how much more can the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi government pick up as it goes along, and I think that’s the real question. And I’m not sure what the right analogy is, whether it’s Korea or what have you. I think all that the folks in Washington were trying to indicate by that was that there’s some possibility of some form of long-term security arrangement over time, and I think in general that that’s probably a fairly realistic assessment, assuming that the Iraqi government, in fact, does want that to continue and, of course, it is very much up to them and their sovereignty is paramount in all of this.