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Interview with General David Petraeus

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - February 2, 2011

SUMMARY Charles Sennott of GlobalPost sat down with Gen. David Petraeus, commander of American and allied forces in Afghanistan, for an extended interview about where the fight for Afghanistan stands as the spring "fighting season" approaches. Sennott later spoke with the NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown.

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JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight an update from Afghanistan.

This morning, Charles Sennott of the international website GlobalPost sat down for an extended interview with General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.

Shortly afterwards, I talked with Sennott from Kabul.

JEFFREY BROWN: Charlie Sennott, welcome.

You spoke to Gen. Petraeus about the new situation in Egypt first. Tell us about that.

CHARLES SENNOTT, GlobalPost: The situation in Egypt obviously has a much wider impact. And General Petraeus has been following the situation closely, particularly the ramifications it could have for the global struggle on terrorism.

And he told us that this set of street riots that have been going on in Cairo have an impact much beyond Egypt.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, commander, International Security Assistance Force: Well, I actually was exchanging e-mails with someone whose views I respect greatly when it comes to the broader Mideast region and so forth.

And he said, "I think this shows the importance once again of leaders to listen to their people. The wise men listen and show that they are listening and respond."

And I think that is a universal lesson from -- that has been reaffirmed in these particular circumstances.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, in Afghanistan, Charlie, of course, the big question is how much progress is being made, particularly along the Pakistan border area.

CHARLES SENNOTT: That's right. That is one of the most critical issues of the offensive in Afghanistan against the Taliban.

The border area is where they have added a lot of intelligence assets. And they have really tried to get what they call an unblinking eye along that border and tried to work with Pakistani officials to go after the safe havens inside Pakistan.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, there is a good cooperative effort with Pakistan in terms of coordinating activities on either side of the Durand Line, the border between the two countries.

As Pakistan continues its campaign against the Pakistani Taliban and the other elements allied within it, those that pose such a serious threat to the very existence of Pakistan, that threatened it up until about two years ago, really, and against which Pakistan has done quite impressive operations, starting in Swat Valley and then in the various agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, that has gone on.

Now, I think it is -- you must recognize the sacrifices that Pakistan has made, the losses that they have taken in their military, their police and, indeed, among their civilian population. They need to consolidate some of those. They are the first to note that there is more work that needs to be done, not only against those that threaten them but also against groups that threaten their neighbors and indeed threaten the rest of the world.

CHARLES SENNOTT: But what about the criticism that Pakistan has just not done enough, you know, that -- that -- that Pakistan, for a long time, did harbor the Taliban? They allowed them to stay there. They went largely unimpeded in their -- in their efforts to consolidate and regroup in the wake of September 11.

That criticism is still resonant, and it's still very strong, and a feeling that Pakistan hasn't done enough. How would you answer people who are -- are critical of Pakistan in that way?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, first, I think I'd recap what they have done over the course of the past two years, ever since they started the offensive in Swat Valley, in the Malakand Division of what used to be known as the Northwest Frontier Province, which they then continued in the agencies of the FATA, in Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, South Waziristan, Orakzai, and so forth, and what they are continuing to do while then also recognizing, as they do very clearly, that there is more that needs to be done against again the Pakistani Taliban, as well as against some of the other elements that, again, threaten Afghanistan and, indeed, pose threats to Western Europe and our homeland.

JEFFREY BROWN: The military is now preparing for a spring offensive, right?

CHARLES SENNOTT: That's right.

It's the so-called season of fighting. And that will get under way in the end of March as the weather begins to warm up. That campaign will move basically from the south to the north. So you will see the fighting really begin to intensify. And this will be a pivotal moment in what's now a 10-year war in Afghanistan.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: We just got the inputs right in Afghanistan this past fall. We just finished the establishment of all the different organizations that are needed for the conduct of a comprehensive civil military campaign, deployed the additional U.S., other troop-contributing nation and Afghan forces, again, over 110,000 more than last year at this time.

CHARLES SENNOTT: So, it's a consolidation of all of those different...

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: That's correct.

CHARLES SENNOTT: ... efforts into one direction?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: That's correct.

And even as we were getting the inputs right, of course, used them to achieve outputs in the form of taking away important safe havens from the Taliban, the areas around Kabul, on the doorstep of Kandahar and Central Helmand Province and so forth.

We want to not only solidify those further in the two months or so remaining before the fighting season begins. We want to expand those further. In fact, we are working right now on connecting the Kandahar security bubble and the Helmand security bubble.

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