Manhattan Gen. David Petraeus said Monday that a comprehensive approach is required to win the war in Afghanistan, with support from NATO and Pakistan.
In an interview with The Associated Press before delivering a lecture at Kansas State University, the head of the U.S. Central Command said insurgents and the Taliban have been able to regroup and find safe havens, including the tribal areas along the Afghan border with Pakistan.
“The enemy is resilient and as is the case has sanctuary across the border and is able to reconstitute itself,” Petraeus said.
He said it would take a comprehensive approach outlined by President Barack Obama, along with coalition partners and Pakistan, to regain territory controlled by the Taliban.
Petraeus said it is critical to get the Pakistan military to focus less on preparing for conventional war against nuclear rival India and more on defeating insurgent groups. He said a major offensive under way in Pakistan’s northwest region was a start.
“The threat posed by the extremists internal in Pakistan is the most serious treat to the existence of Pakistan,” Patraeus told the audience attending his Landon Lecture. “There has to be a transformation, much like the U.S military.”
Petraeus said it will take effort to build a legitimate Afghan government and an economy that isn’t reliant on illegal narcotics. A comprehensive approach with more U.S. and international civilian authorities assisting the Afghans is necessary to build these institutions, he said.
“Military is not enough by itself,” he said.
The Central Command has responsibility for military operations in the Middle East, including Iraq, the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan. The U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001 and is sending additional troops this spring and summer.
Petraeus formerly served as commander of Fort Leavenworth and the Combined Arms Center where he directed the writing of the Army’s new counterinsurgency doctrine. That manual became the guide for Petraeus during his command in Iraq of the “surge” of troops, which sought to end spiraling sectarian violence.
About 1,000 soldiers from nearby Fort Riley, many of whom took part in the surge, were in the audience of about 5,000 attending Patraeus’ speech in Bramlage Coliseum.
He said insurgent attacks in Iraq decreased from 160 a day in January 2007 to an average of 10 to 15 a day over the past five months. But as former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said at Fort Leavenworth on Thursday, those gains in security are not guaranteed.
Petraeus said it would be wrong for Americans who’ve seen improvements in Iraq under his command in 2007 and 2008 to expect the same results in Afghanistan. And though the Iraqis are taking more responsibility for their own security, the general said there will be challenges in the future, including efforts by al-Qaida and other extremists to stage “sensational attacks” meant to undermine achievements.
“The progress is fragile and requires continued focus and continued effort,” Petraeus said.
Petraeus says it’s impossible to “just take the lessons from one situation and apply them to another as rote.” There are benchmarks already for progress in Afghanistan, but he said that additional goals will be outlined for Congress and the administration later this spring.
“In Afghanistan we are building, not rebuilding,” Petraeus said, adding that Afghanistan lacks the literacy and resources that Iraq possessed and also presents challenges with terrain and weather.