In July 2004, Newsweek ran a cover story on Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, then-commander of the 101st Airborne Division in northern Iraq, under the title, "Can This Man Save Iraq?"
than two bloody years later in January 2007, Petraeus appeared
before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation
hearings as the commander of all U.S. forces in Iraq and
gave this evaluation: "The situation in Iraq is dire. The
stakes are high. There are no easy choices. The way ahead
will be very hard. ... But hard is not hopeless."
He cleared the committee, and on Jan. 26, 2007, the Senate
confirmed him by an 81-0 vote.
Petraeus has an extensive academic and military resume,
but the task ahead may be his most challenging yet. Petraeus
is in charge of carrying out the Bush administration's controversial
new Iraq policy, a strategy that has met significant opposition
from the Democratic Congress and a growing number of Republicans.
In early January, President Bush presented a new strategy
to increase troop levels in Iraq by 21,500 and focus on
economic, political and diplomatic efforts.
Petraeus, who is known as the commander that pacified northern
Iraq in the beginning of the war and then led the reconstruction
and training of the Iraqi security forces, will go back
for a third tour -- this time as a four-star general --
in charge of a war that some feel the United States cannot
During his confirmation hearings, Petraeus said he was
confident that America could succeed and that he wouldn't
take the position if he did not believe in the Bush administration's
Considered one of the army's intellectuals, Petraeus wrote
his Ph.D. dissertation on the lessons of the Vietnam war.
Years later, after two tours in Iraq, he co-authored the
military's new counterinsurgency manual with Lt. Gen. James
Mattis of the U.S. Army.
Petraeus began working on the manual, called FM 3-24, as the head of the U.S. Combined Arms Center, or CAC, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in October 2005 and completed the final draft in December 2006. It was jointly adapted by the Army and the Marines as the first manual devoted to counterinsurgency tactics in 20 years for the Army and 25 years for the Marines.
A successful counterinsurgency operation, the manual states, "requires a flexible, adaptive force led by agile, well-informed, culturally astute leaders."
It stresses winning the support of the civilians, building cultural awareness and extending efforts beyond military operations. This strategy, however, requires a significant amount of resources and troops on the ground to carry it out. The manual recommends 20 to 25 security forces for every 1,000 civilians; in Iraq that equates to 535,000 to 670,000 soldiers.
As commander of the 101st Airborne Division after the initial invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Petraeus' strategy focused less on aggressive military force and more on building relationships with the local Iraqis. Under his leadership, the "Screaming Eagles" as the 101st Airborne Division is called, helped provide security, jobs, restore utilities, and foster local democracy.
"This is a race," Petraeus said in October 2003 on National Public Radio. "This is a race to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. And there are other people in this race. And they're not just trying to beat us to the finish line. In some cases, they want to kill us."
At the time of his confirmation, over 3,000 American service members had died in Iraq.
He led the Screaming Eagles from March 2003 until February 2004. In June 2004 he returned to Iraq for a second tour as the commander of Multinational Security Transition Command -- Iraq and the NATO training mission -- to head the training of the Iraqi army and police forces.
As a leader, Newsweek described him as a "wiry, intense, brilliant three-star general" and he is known for his strict belief in physical fitness.
But he is not short of criticism from his peers, however, who complain of his intensity and competitiveness. He has picked up several nicknames during his rapid ascent through the military ranks for his ambitious leadership style: "professional son," "King David" and a "perfumed prince," a term describing an officer that advances by working closely with four-star generals.
Before Iraq, he served a year in Bosnia as the assistant chief of staff for operations of the NATO stabilization force and the deputy commander of the U.S. joint insurgency counterterrorism task force.
Petraeus has been injured twice in his career: once in 1991 when he was accidentally shot in the chest with an M-16 when a fellow infantryman tripped during a training exercise and again in 2000 when he broke his pelvis after his parachute collapsed 60 feet above the ground. His surgeon in 1991 was former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who rushed off the golf course into a five-hour operation on Petraeus.
Born in 1952 as the son of a Dutch sea captain, Petraeus graduated in the top 5 percent of his class at West Point Military Academy in 1974. He earned a masters of public administration in 1985 and his Ph.D. from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1987.
Petraeus is married to Holly Knowlton and has two children.