Gen. David Petraeus, top commander of coalition military forces in Iraq, recently sat down with Newsweek to do a “valedictory” interview before he takes up his new post as CENTCOM commander next month.
Newsweek reported that while Petraeus recognized that al-Qaeda in Iraq has been significantly diminished, he refusesd to say the terror group had been “defeated.” Moreover, Petraeus acknowledged that the recent successes in Iraq may have been possible without the surge:
Petraeus is careful not to credit all the progress to the surge of U.S. troops in 2007. The sea change came last year from a series of movements now known as the Awakening. […] So would the Sunni Awakening have succeeded without the surge? Possibly, he concedes.
Yet, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) disagrees with Petraeus, who McCain recently named as one of “the three wisest people” that he would rely heavily on as president. Last month during an interview with CBS News anchor Katie Couric, McCain dismissed the notion that security in Iraq may have improved without the so-called “surge” of U.S. forces there:
COURIC: Sen. Obama […] says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What’s your response to that?
McCAIN: I don’t know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened.
Also last month, McCain declared outright that “we have succeeded in Iraq. We have succeeded.” Again, Petraeus cautioned against such rhetoric, Newsweek reported:
As the general’s counterinsurgency guidance puts it, under the rubric “Manage Expectations”: “Avoid premature declarations of success.” […] “The champagne bottle remains in the back of the refrigerator,” he says.
However, McCain and his chief campaign surrogates have been declaring success in Iraq for quite some time. It is therefore unlikely they will be taking Petraeus’s advice.