Austin Bay scored an interview recently with General David Petraeus. For those newer readers not familiar with Austin, he’s a long time blogfriend ( one of my earliest; if I recall correctly, we were also on the H-Diplo listserv together in the pre-blogging era), an author, professor, journalist and Iraq war veteran, where as a colonel in the Army Reserves he commanded an armored unit and was awarded the Bronze Star.
The video of the interview is here ( registration required for the full interview).
Several blog posts by Bay with excerpts from the interview:
General Petraeus: “….We have, in fact, put considerable emphasis on how Al-Qaeda, in Iraq, generates resources. And they do it, again, like a mafia does, that we would be familiar with. It’s through extortion of successful businesses; extortion of money for protection rackets, or what have you; insisting that a cell phone business, for example, give them a cut of their profits or they’ll blow the cell phones down – cell phone towers down; taking a cut out of the cement business, the real estate business, the financial businesses, and so forth.
And you see the same on the militia side; although, again, much reduced now and they don’t control the port of Umm Qasr anymore. They don’t control various other elements that they did control until about six to eight months ago.
So progress there. And then beyond that, certainly corruption is a concern and a problem and one that the Iraqis have very much recognized and about which they’re very concerned. They’ve launched an anti-corruption program.
But this is going to be a serious issue. There is considerable money. There is a very young and still very much developing government largely led by individuals who – very good people and good leaders of opposition parties for many years but have not necessarily exercised strategic leadership in the past and very much growing into their jobs but with bureaucracies that are still very much developing as well.”
AUSTIN BAY: Gen. David Petraeus, let’s pick up on your rheostat analogy. You’re giving us a conditions-based approach to assessing victory in a very intricate, complex and long struggle. Now this is an incremental victory-one step up; a half-step back. Enemy action results in a coalition response; coalition actions result in an enemy response. That’s war among human beings. It strikes me that some of those conditions include a sovereign Iraq that is largely responsible for its own internal security, but is also a United States ally. These are some of the conditions mentioned in the Update Strategic Overwatch video at the ArenaUSA.com. That said; if you would, please comment on a sovereign Iraq emerging as a US ally.
Did you get a chance to look at that video?
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: Just briefly, I’m afraid, Austin. But let me just come back to what you just said because the way you stated that is exactly right. It is incremental, and it does have fits and starts. It is this exercise of pushing the stone up a hill, a Sisyphean endeavor at times where you do make two steps up and one step back. Sometimes you get one step up and two steps back.
But, overall, over the course of the past year or so, really since the start of the surge of offenses in particular, that was the large comprehensive offensive launched in June 2007 when we had all of the surge brigades on the ground, since that time, there has been a fairly steady degree of improvement week in/week out, month in/month out. Certainly, again, there have been flare-ups at times. The militia counterattacks, when Prime Minister al-Maliki ordered Iraqi forces and the Basra, were really quite a substantial – more than a flare-up.
But, over time, those were dealt with, more than dealt with, in fact, and very severe losses inflicted on the militia.
Somehow, in addition to reporting, Austin finds the time to write novels, a syndicated column, blog, give TV interviews and teach undergraduates. I am feeling quite lazy in comparison. LOL!