Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in the Middle East, comes to BYU
"We have observed the going is likely to get harder before it gets easier," Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week in Washington, D.C. "As we seek to expand security for the people and to take from the Taliban control of key areas, the enemy will fight back."
As commander of CENTCOM, Petraeus oversees almost the entire Middle East, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the al-Qaida breeding ground in Yemen, the extremist groups in Pakistan and the piracy boiling off the coast of Somalia.
The region is a geographically small but conflict-large area, with nearly 210,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard personnel working to secure peace and eliminate terrorism.
In his report to the Senate Armed Services Committee, he explained that although Iraq has seen definite progress, Afghanistan is still a major challenge.
Petraeus said that the additional 30,000 troops President Barack Obama has announced he would send to Afghanistan will be used to "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida and its extremist allies."
The troops are also working in conjunction with Afghan Security Forces to create a government that "is seen as legitimate in the eyes of the people," he said.
"2010 will be a difficult year," he said, "a year that will see progress in reversals of Taliban momentum in important areas, but also a year in which there will be tough fighting and periodic setbacks."
That sounds familiar to Lt. Col. Ted Leblow, Petraeus' former aviation adviser for the 101st Airborne Division and professor of military science in BYU's ROTC program.
Leblow was one of the "Screaming Eagles" who pushed into Mosul at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom under Petraeus' command.
He remembers post-combat Iraq, with its lack of electricity and water, non-functioning police force and disbanded garbage services.
When a dictatorial government is overthrown, he said, not only is the leader gone, but so is the garbage man.
"They're used to putting their garbage out on the street and the garbage trucks coming (to get it)," he said of the Iraqi people. "When a government ceases to exist, (they) still put (their) garbage on the street, even though the trucks aren't coming. … So there are piles of garbage on the street. It takes time to restore those things."
When Leblow returned for his second deployment in 2006, he said the progress was astounding.
"You could see now that they have a government in place, they're making decisions," he said. "They had a police force, military force. All the normal day-to-day things a government does were taking place."
"In my mind, it's night and day," he continued. "It doesn't surprise me that now we're approaching the time when we can come home, and they'll be their own successful country, running on their own by themselves."
And that's just what Petraeus wants.
Leblow hasn't seen Petraeus since their days in Iraq but will be at the lecture tonight with all of his 388 cadets.
"This is huge," he said. "Our cadets all go out and will be future Army officers in the military. To be able to hear from a senior leader such as Gen. Petraeus in person here on this campus is an opportunity that the majority of graduating future officers don't have."
The cadets will hear firsthand about life on the battlefield and what they can expect in a few years, but it's doubtful the lecture will include any definitive timeline of success.
"I don't use words like victory or defeat," Petraeus told the New York Times in 2008, just before his commission at CENTCOM. "In fact, I am a realist, not an optimist or a pessimist. And the reality is that there has been significant progress, but there are still serious challenges."
For more information:
To read all of General Petraeus' comments to the Senate Armed Services Committee:
To learn more about CENTCOM visit: www.centcom.mil/.
To read from the Counterinsurgency manual visit: www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-24.pdf.
Due to limited seating, Gen. David Petraeus' remarks will be broadcast live on KBYU and rebroadcast several times in the coming week.
7 p.m. today (live broadcast)
2 p.m. Sunday
2 p.m. Monday
8 p.m. Wednesday
10 p.m. Thursday, April 1
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