"Our soldiers are seen in the eyes of many partner nations … as sort of the Michael Jordans of the military," he told the Deseret News.
Petraeus said U.S. troops' knee pads would always slip down around their ankles, a "fashion trend" quickly adopted by Iraqi troops wanting to be more like U.S. soldiers.
"There were some really special relationships that built up," Petraeus said. "Even generals have counterparts and friends. I go back and see them and realize what we went through together. Those were pretty horrific times."
From earlier months in Iraq with 53 dead bodies in the streets each day, Petraeus has seen dramatic reductions in violence, two successful elections and Iraqis who feel safe going out to amusement parks and rowing their boats on the Tigris River.
His 50,000 troops who remain in Iraq after August will change their focus to an advisory role, while his additional troops in Afghanistan will continue the difficult task of eliminating terrorist havens and promoting internal strength and structure.
Progress in Iraq is not irreversible, Petraeus said, but the country looks better now than it did when he first got there — seven years and two stars ago.
"I always talk about progress, not victory or defeat," Petraeus said. "These are always works in progress."
Gen. David Petraeus' remarks at BYU will be rebroadcast several times in the coming week:
2 p.m. Sunday
2 p.m. Monday
8 p.m. Wednesday
10 p.m. Thursday, April 1
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