Petraeus draws 'big picture' for Soldiers at Infantry conference
September 23, 2009
- Aca,!A"The only thing that works is the brutal truth," Petraeus said of Afghanistan.
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Sept. 23, 2009) -- At the Infantry Warfighting Conference Tuesday, Gen. David Petraeus walked nearly 2,000 Soldiers through Aca,!A"the big picture,Aca,!A? in respect to counterinsurgency operations in the region that constitutes the United States Central Command, the smallest but most volatile of the six U.S. geographic combatant commands.
The region has Aca,!A"no shortage of problems,Aca,!A? Petraeus said. Aca,!A"It is indeed a world of contrasts Aca,!" the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor.Aca,!A?
The CENTCOM region, which includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and 17 other countries, is rich in energy-producing reserves of petroleum and natural gas, but it suffers from a dearth of potable water, basic services, adequate governance and economic development, Petraeus said.
Those problems are compounded by the proliferation of terrorist groups, extremist elements, militias, state-based aggression, piracy, smuggling and drug trafficking. Add to that the Aca,!A"youth bulgeAca,!A? Aca,!" 45 percent of the population is between the ages of 15 and 29, inadequately educated or educated in extremism Aca,!" and you have Aca,!A"a fertile field for extremism.Aca,!A?
Though violence in Afghanistan is 60 percent greater this year than last, and concerns in Iran remain Aca,!A"huge,Aca,!A? recent progress in Iraq and Pakistan has been Aca,!A"heartening,Aca,!A? Petraeus said Aca,!" Aca,!A"still fragile and still reversible,Aca,!A? but less so than last year at this time.
Aca,!A"Clearly we have our work cut out for us in this region,Aca,!A? he said.
Full-spectrum counterinsurgency operations are key to success, but countering terrorism requires more than an increase in the number of counter-terrorist forces, Petraeus said. Aca,!A"Full spectrumAca,!A? must include stability operations.
Aca,!A"Wherever you are on the spectrum (of violence), you are going to have to do some measure of offense, defense and stability operations,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"You cannot forget that last category. You have to do it all.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre trying to replace the great game, as itAca,!a,,cs called -- the competition for power and influence between the great powers around the world Aca,!" with a broad partnership, one that is founded on the common interests against extremism coming out of Afghanistan and Pakistan and also the illegal narcotics industry,Aca,!A? he said.
Petraeus reminded his audience, most of them combat veterans, that the surge in Iraq was successful because it went beyond the troop build-up in that area and Aca,!A"embraced a comprehensive approachAca,!A? to COIN operations.
Aca,!A"The surge was really about big ideas, about employing certain counterinsurgency concepts. The biggest idea was that we had to secure the population and serve them, and we had to be seen doing both if they were to support us and our Iraqi partners,Aca,!A? he said, referring to the 77 joint security stations established in the heart of Baghdad. U.S. forces went where the violence was greatest, Petraeus said, and Aca,!A"lived among the people,Aca,!A? signaling their commitment to establish a secure and stable environment.Aca,!A?
A comprehensive Aca,!A"big pictureAca,!A? approach also requires a concerted focus on identifying Aca,!A"reconcilables and irreconcilablesAca,!A? among the insurgent population, he said.
Aca,!A"You canAca,!a,,ct clear and leave Aca,!" you have to clear and hold,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"You get your teeth in the enemy and you donAca,!a,,ct let go. That means finding the irreconcilables, capturing, killing or running them off. ThatAca,!a,,cs our job. ThatAca,!a,,cs reality.
Aca,!A"But you cannot kill or capture your way out of an industrial-strength insurgency,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"YouAca,!a,,cve got to figure out who the reconcilables are Aca,!" who are the bad guys you can get on your side. They have to be reintegrated.Aca,!A?
These lessons learned in Iraq Aca,!A"do not hold us prisoner in Afghanistan,Aca,!A? Petraeus said. Aca,!A"You cannot take what we did in Iraq and import it wholesale.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cll take these (lessons) as they are applicable, and let them guide us with a nuanced approach to local situations in (Afghanistan) that are different from district to district and province to province,Aca,!A? he said.
This nuanced approach does not apply in respect to Aca,!A"truthAca,!A? and Army values, Petraeus said. Here, there is no gray area.
Aca,!A"The only thing that works is the brutal truth, and being first with the truth. No spin, no lipstick on pigs,Aca,!A? he said. Where there is a Aca,!A"results problem,Aca,!A? there must not be a message problem.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"DonAca,!a,,ct try to modify reality,Aca,!A? he said.
The reality in Afghanistan is that the sudden increase in violence there is the result of Aca,!A"our going on the offense,Aca,!A? Petraeus said. Aca,!A"The violence there is a heck of a lot less than the height of violence in Iraq. Still, a 60-percent increase over this time last year is a significant concern. It reflects the resilience and growth of the Taliban.Aca,!A?
Afghanistan will take a sustained, substantial commitment, he said. Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs serious, but doable, as youAca,!a,,cve heard it said.Aca,!A?
Petraeus urged his audience to recognize their place in Aca,!A"the big picture.Aca,!A? From time to time, he said, Soldiers fall victim to the Aca,!A"Ground Hog Day syndromeAca,!A? Aca,!" each day seems to be a repeat of the last.
Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre all afflicted with it. If youAca,!a,,cre the CENTCOM commander, youAca,!a,,cll occasionally suffer from it. One day is just like the last and the next day will be the same,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"You have to remind yourself that you matter.
"Your leadership, your professional competence, your example Aca,!" they matter. The qualities you possess as a leader Aca,!" they really do make a difference in the overall efforts, in the big picture. Each of you matters greatly.Aca,!A?