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Petraeus Cites Areas of Improvement in Baghdad

The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David Petraeus, discusses how operations are faring in Iraq and gives his perspective on the funding friction in Washington, D.C.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now to our Newsmaker interview with General David Petraeus, the top U.S. general in Iraq. I spoke to him this morning from the Green Zone in Baghdad.

    General, welcome.

    GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, Commander, U.S. Forces in Iraq: Thanks very much, Jim.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    What effect is the Iraq debate in Washington having on your operations on the ground in Iraq?

  • GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS:

    Well, to tell you the truth, Jim, we've more than got our hands full and occupied out here. We're certainly aware of the debate that's ongoing back there, but the fact is, we're pretty focused on what it is that we're engaged in out here, and we're really trying to stay focused on that. Our mission is very clear, and that's what we're intent on accomplishing.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Any sign that it is affecting the troops in any way?

  • GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS:

    No, not that I have seen. Again, it's a matter of discussion at various times, but our mission is very clear. And as long as that is our mission, that is certainly, again, what we're focused on.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Is it affecting your own morale, your own feeling of support toward you and your mission at all?

  • GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS:

    Jim, I've felt like I've had a fairly heavy rucksack here. And I've got a lot of great folks out here to help carry that rucksack, frankly.

    Occasionally, you feel another rock being put in there, but this is a really consuming endeavor. It's, frankly, the most consuming endeavor of my professional life.

    And, again, it tends to more than occupy one's day. And you don't have a lot of time to think about other things, other than just getting on with the business at hand out here in Iraq.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    What do you think about setting withdrawal deadlines for American troops, as some Democrats have suggested?

  • GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS:

    Well, there's no question that we all want to see progress and that it's very important to convey the need for progress to our Iraqi partners, our Iraqi counterparts, and so forth. And the congressional delegations, the policymakers in Washington, those of us on the ground here have certainly endeavored to do that.

    Having said that, I'm not sure that hard-and-fast deadlines are useful, in the sense of providing the enemies out here, you know, just a time to which they have to hang tough and then know that we would be going.

    So, again, I'll leave that. I'm happy to leave that to the policymakers back there. I'm a soldier out here with a very clear mission, as I said. And, again, it's a pretty good time to be in Baghdad as opposed to Washington, I think.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    But the debate, as you know, General, in Washington right now is about you, General Petraeus, and the troops who serve under you, and both sides are claiming various effects. One of them is saying that this debate itself, the votes in the House and the Senate, are undermining what you and your troops are trying to do. Is that correct?

  • GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS:

    Well, Jim, I think, again, you can ask them what it is that the objectives of the various proposals are. What we have generally thought is, you know, what is the effect of these various debates, these various policy proposals, and so forth on our partners, on the various extremist elements who we're trying to counter and so forth?

    And I think some of that is debatable, intellectually debatable. And some of it, frankly, is not as intellectually debatable. And, again, I think some of that can be deciphered pretty clearly by folks.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    I don't want to stay on this, you know, forever here, but I'm trying to get at the central point, is that, what is happening, both in the House and the Senate and elsewhere, is it hurting your effort? Is it hurting the effort of U.S. troops, as has been charged by the president and others, yes or no? That's what I'm trying to get at.

  • GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS:

    And what I've been trying to get at, Jim, is to go around this minefield rather than stumbling into it, frankly.

    Again, as I said, I'm privileged to command an organization as a soldier. It's up to other people to determine the policies, to resource those policies from which our mission emanates.

    If those resources are not forthcoming, then, obviously, it would have an impact on us. If things are done that give aid and comfort to the enemy or worry our partners, then obviously that does not help.

    And, again, I'll let the folks back there debate those various effects. We pretty much have our shoulder to the wheel and our heads down, and we're pushing on with this mission at hand.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Thus far, though, then, what you're saying is, there have been no such effects, right?

  • GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS:

    Well, I mean, our Iraqi counterparts occasionally need to be reassured of our commitment. And I think the enemy periodically has to be reminded of our determination. And we've sought to do both of those at various times here.

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