Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Petraeus discusses range of topics at think tank event

Andrew Gonyea
Communications Assistant

ROA staffers attended a discussion at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars featuring Gen. David Petraeus, commander of US Central Command, April 14. Among many issues, Petraeus discussed the planned withdrawal in Iraq, the future of Afghan government, and an emboldened and dangerous Iran.

Petraeus began the discussion on a light note, likening his position as overseer of a region fraught with challenges to that of a plate spinner at a circus. He then took questions and informed the audience of the progress made, and outstanding challenges, in the region.

On Iraq, Petraeus said that the planned withdrawal of US forces remains on schedule, despite the terrorist attacks during the recent elections held there. Soldiers continue to "advise and assist" Iraqi forces in joint operations except in circumstances when lives are in imminent danger. He stated that US forces place tremendous emphasis on obtaining warrants and otherwise following the rule of the law.

Having just returned from Afghanistan earlier in the day, Petraeus discussed his talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, to whom he stressed the importance of "inclusivity and transparency" in government. Petraeus claimed that Karzai is receptive to that message and has taken many steps recently to increase both in his government. Petraeus also made clear that Karzai is the leader and commander in chief of a sovereign Afghanistan, and so US efforts to secure the country must involve full cooperation and coordination with the Afghan government.

While discussing the importance of diplomacy for addressing increased extremist threats in places like Yemen and the Horn of Africa, Petraeus alluded to the extensive bilateral and multilateral efforts made in the last year towards Iran. He said the world has been rebuffed by Iran, and so the United States and its allies must switch to the "pressure track" to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions. Petraeus also accused Iran of numerous destabilizing activities in the region and claimed that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's words and actions have caused concern among Iran's neighbors, leading them to interact positively with US Central Command.

Sharing Petraeus' views regarding the need to switch to a "pressure track," ROA advocates immediate U.S. divestment from Iran to stop it from developing nuclear weapons.

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