Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent ABC News' Martha Raddatz interviewed International Security Assistance Force Commander U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan.
MARTHA RADDATZ: General, let's start with the developments overnight. And we spoke yesterday -- in the helicopter on your battlefield circulation about what was happening with the planned burning of the Koran. It looks like now, that the pastor in Florida says he will either put it on hold or not go ahead with it. Your reaction to that and whether the damage is already done.
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, that obviously would be positive. There has been some damage done. You've seen it. You've seen, you've heard of the demonstrations here in Afghanistan -- there are already in a sense images if you will implanted in minds albeit not with photos of something as inflammatory as the burning of a Quaran. But let me perhaps start off by saying, you know, this is not a first amendment issue to me. This is an issue of a commander who is responsible for the safety of America's sons and daughters. Sons and daughters of -- over 47 other coalition countries. And it puts their lives in jeopardy, in some cases. This is about their safety. It's about their security. I defended the right of others to attack me in -- in the past. You may recall on I think it was the 11th of September.
PETRAEUS: MoveOn.org took out a full page ad attacking me personally -- on the morning of the hearings back in Washington with Ambassador Crocker on Iraq. And I was asked about that later, and obviously, I didn't applaud as I opened the newspaper and saw that. But I did state that we fought for the right of individuals to do just what they did.
So, I am a firm believer in First Amendment rights. But in this case, of course, it's one of those -- issues where one person's exercise of freedom of expression jeopardizes the safety of tens of thousands of others -- hundreds of thousands of others, probably, around the world. And could do -- very significant damage to the image of the United States around the world, as well.
RADDATZ: Could it also be that because Secretary Gates intervened, because you made comments, because there was such -- such outrage about this. That, in fact, it could have the opposite effect. That people may say, "This man tried to burn the Koran and he was stopped."
PETRAEUS: It's in the sense of -- of it being a positive effect, is that what you're…
RADDATZ: the best outcome possible from that. That it -- that it could in fact something you could capitalize on.
PETRAEUS: I think it could be. I think it could be. I think that -- when you saw the outpouring -- of emotion, of rejection of such an action by so many Americans. From all areas, all walks of life -- all segments of our population. I think that sent a very powerful message to those of the Islamic faith around the world. I've had conversations with -- with Afghans who have said, "Thank you for speaking out on this. Thanks for -- being in a sense a voice of reason. And please extend our appreciation to all the others -- who have done likewise." I've also received, I might add -- numerous emails from -- members of our ranks here in Afghanistan and also from a number of mothers and fathers back in the United States.
RADDATZ: Because this went around the world so quickly, because as soon as it -- he announced it, and it was on the internet, and we talked a bit about that yesterday, what does that tell you? And what are your concerns about the reaction to the Muslim world to Americans?
PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, it obviously says a lot about the information environment which we carry out operations. Indeed, as we discussed the other day, one of the -- the areas in which we have to work very hard is to try to be first with the truth, is the admonition that we offer to those who are working in public affairs, strategic communications and so forth. And it -- it becomes increasingly difficult, because, of course, the insurgents sometimes have news bureau desks -- already programmed into their cell phones. And -- so, we're trying to gather information and to ascertain the facts. And then to -- to share them again as widely as we can, as quickly as we can, to ensure that -- terrorist propaganda doesn't stay out there for too long unchallenged.
And ideally, again, we actually get the headline first. So that the pace of this -- and many people have remarked how the 24-hour news cycle and so forth that it continues to compress -- the -- the rapid pace with which news just goes around the world, as you noted -- in cyberspace -- is a reality. It is a challenge. And sometimes it's an opportunity. In this case, I think there was also a little bit of a slow news cycle. You know, it was over the Labor Day Weekend.
RADDATZ: Labor Day Weekend --
PETRAEUS: There wasn't much else going on. And all of a sudden this was latched onto by a number of different news organizations.
RADDATZ: Beyond the information war, what -- what does it say about our relationship with the Muslim world? That the Muslim world, parts of it certainly, would react so rapidly to that?
PETRAEUS: Well, there are predispositions out there. In some cases, to be fair, they are founded on other images -- that are in cyberspace --
RADDATZ: (OVERTALK), Abu Gharaib, Guatanamo --
PETRAEUS: --a number of other -- incidents along the way from which we've learned very, very hard lessons. But we have sought to learn those. We have sought to take corrective action. We have sought to be an adaptive learning organization. But again, there are predispositions. There are people who want -- who will use the platforms that they have -- even religious platforms -- to incite others and to inflame public opinion -- in various populations around the world. I think those are more the exceptions -- than the normal, but they are out there. And they can -- they can be used and they have been used.
RADDATZ: And that's one of your enormous challenges. I mean, yesterday, going down there and seeing the female engagement teams from Jordan and -- and the challenge you face in dealing with the Muslim world. And convincing the Muslim world that American soldiers are -- and Marines are here for a reason.
PETRAEUS: Well, it is -- the -- this is a very complex environment. We often talk about, in fact—with awe actually as we describe what our young men and women in uniform and our coalition partners and -- and others are able to do in these very, very difficult and very complex situations. Operating in cultures that are very different than our own. Different languages. And, of course, multiple languages in a country like Afghanistan.
Different religions. Different traditions. Social customs, values, and all the rest of that. And it's incumbent on us to understand those. To understand the environment in which we're operating -- in a very nuanced manner, frankly. That's something over time in Iraq, because of the sheer density of -- of troopers in the multiple locations. So that by the time of the surge, many of the commanders on the ground—at mid and senior levels, who were actually on their third tour in Iraq. And had a pretty good understanding -- of the situation there.
That's something that we'll work very hard to do here in Afghanistan. Where we've not had that -- that -- anywhere near that density. Of course, we were just at 30 or 31,000 -- U.S. troopers as late as the beginning of 2009. And we're now obviously somewhere around 98,000.
RADDATZ: Can I just go back? Because -- we talked about 9/11 yesterday. I just want to briefly talk to you again with the anniversary approaching on your thoughts on the anniversary of -- of 9/11, nine years of war.
PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, I don't know that anyone really envisioned what the results of -- of 9/11. What would be -- what would follow in the aftermath -- of 9/11. All of the actions that would be taken and that would affect virtually every person's life in some fashion -- has been affected by 9/11, if it's nothing more than just much more intrusive checks and security precautions at air -- airlines.
And -- but beyond that, of course, then you have all of those great Americans and -- and coalition partners -- who have been engaged, as you noted, in -- in nine years of war. Individuals who have continued to raise their right hands -- tour after tour -- while, you know, way into the three, four, full-year tours. For some of those who have been in uniform since 9/11 itself. They and their families have sacrificed enormously during this time. Our -- our country can never thank them enough. But I can say that one of the most heartening -- developments of all this has been the way that all American citizens do support those who are serving our country down range in uniform.
RADDATZ: Let's talk about yesterday and the battlefield circulation and what you saw. And what you saw. If you saw any real tangible progress. I know I asked your brigade commander about that. And he sort of smiled and said there was some visible progress. But explain what -- what you saw and what -- what challenges you saw.
PETRAEUS: First of all, what I saw was a great unit -- experienced leaders. Very, very competent and -- and indeed great leaders, again. Of a brigade commander who had two tours as a battalion commander -- in counterinsurgency operations. One -- of which I was privileged to be his division commander in the first year -- in Iraq, in the 101st Airborne Division. Company and battalion commanders who are very accomplished, very experienced at this very difficult so-called graduate level of warfare, counterinsurgency.
And you did see progress. You saw the security bubble gradually expanding. Very hard fought gains. Very difficult and sometimes -- seeming to be as slow as, again, watching grass grow or paint dry. But nonetheless -- progress. You saw Afghan partners, you saw coalition partners -- using very innovative -- ideas. And -- and again, another area in which we continue to expand with the female engagement teams. And using -- wherever possible those Islamic countries that -- are willing to contribute.
Because of the natural -- ties that they share. The Turkish contingent, for example, in Kabul, has made a very important contribution here. And the Afghan People feel very, very comfortable with them and vice versa. That's one reason that indeed the Kabul -- ink spot or oil spot to use counterinsurgency parlance has continued to expand. And that the security in one sixth of the population, of course, being right here. The security for five million people, five million Afghans has again continued to solidify and to expand.
RADDATZ: What -- what -- explain to people the oil spot spreading or even the security bubble spreading. What that means is you're basically pushing out insurgents and the people in that area feel safer.
PETRAEUS: That's correct. And again, it's not always pushing out. In some cases, it can be killing or capturing. In some cases, it can be running off. In other cases, actually, it can be flipping them, turning them. Making them part of the solution.
RADDATZ: Are you seeing that?
PETRAEUS: Well -- again, small numbers. Hundreds -- not the thousands or tens of thousands that we ultimately saw -- in Iraq. But we do see the beginnings of it. And, of course, the formal program, the Afghan-led reintegration of reconcilables. That program is really just beginning to roll out now. Right after the Eid President Karzai is going to announce the membership -- of the national peace council. That will be another important step in this process.
The -- responsible ministers will go after the provinces and -- and seek to educate the governors and provincial councils on the procedures -- and so forth. And I think there will be traction involved in a number of different locations, because we've already seen -- the early signs of that. In some cases, there have been some enterprising provincial governors -- who have exercised initiative. They have checked with their government, gotten support, but they've actually gotten ahead of the program and have already conducted reintegration events.
RADDATZ: One of the things I think traveling around that -- that I see in -- on this trip and several others is you have soldier/civilians working very hard in different parts of the country. But I still don't understand what the connective tissue is. How does this all come together to work, given what's going on with the Karzai Government? Given there's no strong central government there?
PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, there is very strong connective tissue -- between the military and civilian elements of the -- the United States and -- of indeed the -- the coalition countries. So, Ambassador EIkenberry and I are joined at the hip. Our NATO senior civilian representative -- Ambassador Mark Sedwell of the U.K. also part of that. The UN special representative of Secretary General Steffendy Massteur (PH), who also held that same job by my Dad in Baghdad when Ambassador Crocker and I worked with him there.
The E.U. rep Ambassador Vikadous Eusakas (PH). And -- and a host of others. And then the key ambassadors all very much -- striving to achieve unity of effort. And I think achieving -- a considerable -- degree of that. And then, again, the ties with the Afghan Government, as well. And these take place at national level, at provincial level districts, sub-district. And just as do the military/civilian links of the U.S. and of the various coalition countries. I think --
RADDATZ: I'm talking about the country all coming together. All of these parts coming together, not just -- there's certainly connection between civilian and military efforts, but how do you see the country coming together when you've got all these disparate tribal areas?
PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, again -- we don't expect to see Afghanistan have the kind of very strong central government -- that you do see in some -- other countries -- around the world. President Karzai is very realistic about that. He knows the traditions of his country far better than we do. He knows how to achieve the degree of national -- direction and so forth that are necessary. But also recognizes the need to allow certain degrees -- again of local governance and traditional governance -- to connect with what comes out of Kabul -- as well.
And that's the balance I think that -- Afghanistan overall -- the national government and those in local government are seeking to achieve. It is imperative that the traditional organizing structures of Afghan society be part of this. Local Shura councils -- be indeed linked into this and employed in the overall Afghan governance structure.
RADDATZ: We've got so much invested in looking at corruption. I'm sure you saw the Washington Post piece today. But the United States has invested millions trying to get investigators looking at corruption. And we found it. What does this do in terms of winning the hearts and minds of Afghans if they see how corrupt certain segments of the government are at very high levels?
PETRAEUS: First, very important as always to provide context. To recall that in -- recent years, indeed even in recent months -- various elements of -- of President Karzai's government have -- taken a number of actions against corruption. The chief justice has hired hundreds of judicial workers put a number of judges in jail. The Minister of Finance has fired literally in recent weeks, actually, just dozens of customs officials, as he's gone out after receiving the news that that kind of corrupt activity that you've just described.
The commander of the western border police is a brigadier general is now in jail. And was recently convicted a few weeks ago. A very important provincial chief -- police chief just put in jail. Another one fired, a governor fired and so forth. So, there's actually been quite a bit of activity -- in the realm of anti-corruption. Having said that, President Karzai is the first -- to state publicly that more needs to be done. He gave quite an -- impassioned -- discussion of this. In -- his Kabul Conference remarks. But we have to recognize that --
RADDATZ: Enough action, though, or too many words?
PETRAEUS: Well -- one needs to see. And what we have to do is try to find the proper role of our assistance. We have to be very careful -- through what we do not to -- be seen to threaten the sovereignty of the Afghan Government. Again, something about which there is understandable sensitivity. I think that is -- that is reasonable.
RADDATZ: He's already said, President Karzai's already said that he doesn't want the U.S. to do too much in looking at the corruption. Trying to limit our role.
PETRAEUS: Well, what he has said is that -- that we need to be careful with mentors, in a sense, troop leading our -- increasingly competent Afghan partners -- in carrying out certain actions. Particularly when it comes into the -- the judicial realm and the sensitive investigative unit. So, training -- equipping, enabling -- coaching on how to carry out various activities.
But when it starts to get into specifics, I think there are some understandable sensitivities there and that's something that we do need to come to grips with. We're gonna have to forge a common path. We -- what we want to do, for example, with the -- the task force that is the civil/military task force that is also looking at our role, by the way. Again, remember that the bulk of the money that comes into this country still comes from -- various international organizations. The U.S. is the -- the lead in that, certainly.
RADDATZ: But also --
PETRAEUS: Our own -- our own contracting processes deserve serious scrutiny. And that's what we're giving them. I mean, the fact is, I -- I just put out the other day in -- I put out the traditional counterinsurgency guidance that a commander does in such an endeavor. Two days ago, I signed out the counterinsurgency contracting guides -- which, you know, notes that as always money is ammunition in an endeavor like this. Don't put it in the wrong hands.
So, we have to help with that, as well. President Karzai also rightly concerned about the role of security contractors. Who -- as you heard yesterday, the -- the road warriors out there that have -- that have created in many cases more problems -- than they have actually solved. So, we've got to work through these, I think. With the Afghan Government. With President Karzai. We want to support -- the various efforts. Certainly, in some cases, to encourage it. Because it matters not only to the Afghan People. It obviously matters to our citizens. It matters to the international community.
I think he's aware of that. And again, what we've gotta do is -- is to -- have the kind of dialogue on this that can yield a common purpose -- in the fight against the kind of corruption that -- that President Karzai would be first to note -- undermines the legitimacy of the government in the eyes of the people, which is a very important element of the counterinsurgency effort.
RADDATZ: And makes your job harder, back to the hearts and minds…
PETRAEUS: Any -- any counterinsurgency -- needs to help -- the host government -- achieve a legitimacy. And, you know, it's not about hearts and minds for us, remember. This is not about us - obviously it makes life easier. Everyone wants to be loved. But the hearts and minds that really matter -- are the Afghans supporting their government and their institutions.
RADDATZ: In terms of going back to a couple things you said. And I want to clear up a couple things. And I — the Stars and Stripes article yesterday, everybody keeps coming back to you about next year and -- and I think you described it as a thinning of troops. And not -- it will not be the significant drawdown. Unlikely to result in significant drawdown. I know you said again and again and from the very beginning, it's conditions based. But there seems to be several messages here. Are we just thinning troops? Is that what you have in mind?
PETRAEUS: Well -- what I tried very clearly to express and unfortunately people take different inferences from -- different comments. And then headlines on top of those. But what I tried to convey very clearly is that we are all intent on carrying out the policy that the President announced about July 2011.
By the way, again, as I've stated numerous times, to me, and I was at that speech and I participated in the policymaking process. July 2011 is a message of urgency. It was not a message of this is when the United States heads for the exits, cuts and runs, looks for the lights to turn out on the way out the door. And by the way, that was a message to complement the message of enormous additional commitment -- that the President announced at West Point.
30,000 more U.S. forces. The funding for an additional 100,000 -- Afghan security forces and so forth. Be he has been very clear, as have all of the policymakers that July 2011 is the date when a process begins, the pace of which is determined by conditions on the ground. And that process contist -- consists of two elements. One is transition of tasks to Afghan forces, and elements of institutions because its functions not just geographic areas. And the other is the beginning of a responsible drawdown of our surge forces. Again, at a pace that is conditions based.
RADDATZ: Is it unlikely to result in a significant drawdown?
PETRAEUS: I -- I wouldn't say that. Again -- and again, people have made inferences --
RADDATZ: but you have said that, right?
PETRAEUS: I -- I don't think I have, actually. But again, if so, let me correct the record. It will be a pace that is determined by conditions. That's what the President has clearly articulated. And what he has charged me to do is to provide my best professional military advice when that time comes. And it's quite a long way off. I mean, this is ten months away. And we've just indeed -- deployed the final element of the 30,000 surge forces announced by President Obama -- the 1st of December last year at West Point.
So, again, that's how -- I think July 2011 -- will work out. We do indeed intend to thin our forces -- rather than hand off in the process of transition. In other words, what you do is you do a little bit less and the Afghans do a little bit more instead of saying, "Tag, you're it. You take the ball and run with it. We're out of here." And we think that's the logical approach to this. A number of other -- principles or big ideas, if you will, that we've developed with our NATO and U.S. chains of command -- to guide the processes of transition of -- tasks and geographic areas.
RADDATZ: Are you flexible if -- if you transition in the North and West first and they're more secure areas, certainly. And things start going downhill, do we go back in, in larger numbers? Are you flexible? Is that a possibility?
PETRAEUS: Well, I -- I don't -- part of the -- of the challenge and the path has been when you do, indeed start talking about hypotheticals. So, with respect I'd rather not go into all of that. But what I will say is again that I will provide my best professional military advice to President Obama and to the NATO chain of command -- when we approach the -- the decisions that rightly will be made by policymakers.
RADDATZ: But let's talk about the surge. And you do have the final surge brigade in here. I guess you have headquarters still coming. But what do you envision in the next few months with these surge troops? I think people are somewhat confused. Is there going to be a big battle in Kandahar? What happens with these 30,000 extra troops?
PETRAEUS: Well, it's not just these 30,000. It's -- it's the other tens of thousands that were deployed during the course of the last year. U.S. and -- other troop-contributing nation forces, as well. And also, it's about the growth of the tens of thousands of more Afghan national security forces. All of which are working together in partnership. And what we intend to do over the course of -- of the months that lie ahead -- is to expand the security bubbles in various areas -- in some areas, we have already reversed the momentum of the Taliban. In others, we still need to do that and we are intent on doing that?
RADDATZ: Where have you reversed the momentum of the Taliban?
PETRAEUS: I think there's no question that in Helmand Province, the six central districts of Helmand Province -- are a good bit more secure than they were even six months ago. Marja, as hard fought and as embattled as it has been -- three days ago, opened up its high school for the first time in six years. Three other schools will open for students -- after the Eid. It has -- an interim police station. The market is no longer a market in which the narcotics industry -- puts its wares on sale. And the city is no longer the major command and control headquarters that the Taliban in Helmand Province --
RADDATZ: --But there are still big problems in both these areas. And one thing about Marja…
PETRAEUS: Still challenges. Without question. These are hard fought. Our troopers are still fighting, we're still taking casualties in those areas, because the enemy fights back when you take away really significant sanctuaries and safe havens. But what we want to do, literally, all around the country is expand the security bubble in Helmand Province, connect a few more of these dots that represent -- locations where we have security. but they're not yet connected to the -- to the rest of it.
To make progress in Kandahar, certainly, we begun the operations there. I'm not going to say the when and where of -- of what we're going to do. But we've certainly been at that now for a few months, starting with targeted special operations -- raids and so forth. And now, conventional forces that are clearing and holding areas with our Afghan partners. We want to solidify -- the Kabul security bubble.
Again, as I mentioned earlier, that's one sixth of the population of this country. And by the way, it's an area in which Afghan forces are in the lead. They -- we have actually transitioned with the so-called lead security responsibility to them in all but one of the districts -- of Kabul. And so, that's an area in which we'll do some transition of our forces. Some thinning out. And then moving into other areas. Because again, as -- as we have mentioned in -- in the principles for transition, the thinning out enables some forces to go home. It enables some others to be used in contiguous areas -- where there's more -- work still to be done.
RADDATZ: Are you worried now about expectations, about the American public expecting too much?
PETRAEUS: Sure. Absolutely. I think a factor of what we have sought to do is to -- to provide realistic expectations. In some cases, to dampen what might have been inflated -- expectations -- with caution to our commanders to avoid certain pronouncements at various points -- already along in this effort.
This is -- it seems as if few things ever go rapidly in deliberate, comprehensive civil/military counterinsurgency campaigns. Every now and then, there's something that -- that -- that exceeds that -- expectations. But -- and we'll let the press discover that on their own. But otherwise we're just trying to present a realistic picture of what's going on in the ground. And to be realistic and sober in our -- expectations and predictions for the future.
RADDATZ: You talk about the COIN clock and -- and certainly you talk about counterinsurgency clock. And certainly over the years and in Iraq, we've heard testimony on the Hill. We've heard you talk certainly about successful counterinsurgency campaigns can take nine or ten years. We've been in Afghanistan nine years, but where is the clock set for the beginning of that counterinsurgency campaign.
PETRAEUS: Well, it's a great question, actually. Because what a lot of this point out I think. Is that it is just now that we have finally gotten the inputs right in Afghanistan. When a lot of us came out of Iraq. The new administration took office in Washington and so forth. Even in the final days of the Bush Administration. And we really started looking harder at Afghanistan. We all realized -- all parties recognized, I think, that -- that we didn't have the organizations necessary for the conduct of a comprehensive counterinsurgency campaign.
Some cases it -- we needed leaders for those organizations. The concepts, the big ideas, the -- the civil/military plans and so forth needed to be developed. And indeed the level of resources was insufficient, above all. That is not to say that everything that we'd done up till that point -- was not without enormous importance. Because it established -- institutions. It helped build human capital. It rebuilt the country. You know, all the roads, health clinics, and schools, and cell phone towers and everything else that -- that people rightly point to as signs of progress in Afghanistan, took place during that period.
But also during that period, the Taliban and other elements, the Haqqani Network, and other elements of the so-called extremist syndicate -- that are threatening security here in Afghanistan, were able to reestablish sanctuaries, safe havens, areas of influence and so on. And that's what we're now having to combat. And that's the momentum that we are now seeking to reverse. And then to -- to take away from them.
RADDATZ: so we are really near the beginning of that counterinsurgency clock? That success -- that could take nine to ten years.
PETRAEUS: Yeah, again, in some respects, I'd say obviously what took place up until this point has been of enormous importance. The sacrifices made have been -- very -- very important to this overall effort. But it is just at this point that we feel that we do have the organizations that we learned in Iraq and from history are necessary for the conduct that this kind of campaign. We got the leaders in place. The big ideas and so forth with our Afghan partners. And now very much the resources. Although still growing even there, in terms of the required number of Afghan national security forces.
RADDATZ: You do have a clock ticking, though. You know, and you've talked for years about this Washington clock. What is key to success here? What is key that you have to show the American People in the coming months, do you think?
PETRAEUS: Well I think not just the American people but the citizens of all the troop contributing nations and indeed the Afghan citizens as well, all need to have a sense that this approach -- can indeed achieve progress in the face of a very resilient -- insurgency. That's really, I think, what people want to see. And I think that if that is established that people will be willing to invest further in it.
RADDATZ: And I heard you yesterday, I hear you talk a lot about security first. Is that what the American People have to see? And if they have to see improved security and yet during this surge of troops you're bound to see higher casualty numbers. How do you square that with the public? How do you say, "Yes, we're making progress. Security's improving. Even though more Americans are dying. More coalition --
PETRAEUS: Sure. You have to explain -- that this is -- in that sense, similar to Iraq. The -- the highest -- among the highest casualty months in Iraq -- were those in the late spring, early summer timeframe of 2007. So, June 2007 was the highest casualties -- certainly I think since perhaps the month in which there was -- the -- the second Battle of Fallujah. And I was the commander, it was a horrific month. Terrible, tragic losses. Just grinding us down, frankly.
But we knew that taking away areas that mean something to Al Qaeda, in that case, and in some cases the militia extremists, are -- that they were going to fight back. That we had to engage in these tough battles. We've seen that certainly in Helmand Province. We've seen it in Kandahar.
I said repeatedly last year, while I was the Central Command Commander testifying before Congress, again, in the spring as Centcom commander and then in my confirmation hearing for this position that it would get harder before it got easier. That is the nature of these endeavors. That as you increase your forces. As you increase your tempo and expand your area of operations. That, indeed, violence goes up. And violence going up means that casualties go up, as well.
And then there's a lag between the time that you achieve greater security and you're able to -- to build the beginnings of -- better governance and of economic development. And these other kinds of basic service -- issues are dealt with for the people. And then there's even a lag between that and when the people actually have developed confidence in the overall campaign.
RADDATZ: So in a sense what you have to do in the coming months is convince the American People that you need more time.
PETRAEUS: Well, again, it's not about convincing. This is about demonstrating -- through results on the ground -- our great troops and our Afghan partners, showing that there can be improved security. That -- that can be capitalized on by actions by Afghan governance. And Afghan -- economic development and so forth. And that the people can get a sense that this is a brighter future than the alternative that might be offered by the Taliban, which they experienced prior to 9/11 and was a very brutal -
If you want to -- talk about clocks. If you want to turn the clock back several centuries. If you want to blow up all the girls' schools. If you want to stone people to death for transgressions. If you want to impose -- very, very -- oppressive social practices -- then just go back to it the way it was prior to 9/11. Then for all of the challenges that we've had over the past five years -- there are very few segments of the population that really sees the Taliban alternative -- as preferable to what at least they hope -- could come out of the efforts by -- the international community and the Afghan Government.
RADDATZ: The December review. How will that work? Do you know how that will be presented? Is it something you'll present to the President, are there metrics in place already that you need to -- to see?
PETRAEUS: Well, to -- to be truthful, the first focus -- the -- the -- dog closest to the sled -- is the Lisbon summit. The NATO meeting at which -- the NATO-plus. Because it will be all the troop-contributing nations, all the NATO nations and then the others who are contributing -- troops here in Afghanistan. Their leaders will convene in Li -- Lisbon in -- mid-November for a summit that will include, obviously, a discussion of the situation in Afghanistan -- the -- assessments of the prospects for transition.
Certainly will be among the topics -- perhaps the resourcing of trainers and other -- issues like that. But that's really what we're focused on right now. There's discussion certainly about the December review and what form it might take and so forth. It would be premature for me to -- to share that with you I'm afraid.
RADDATZ: Do you think the pressure's off somewhat for December? That it's shifted more to the spring? That -- that because you arrived just two and a half months ago. And -- and there was a little bit of a reset there. Because General McChrystal's departure, 'cause that — does in fact buy a little more time?
PETRAEUS: I think -- just -- I think time will tell, actually. I think we're going to -- have to see what we're able to achieve -- in the months -- that lie ahead. The months leading up to Lisbon. And then -- see where we go from there.
RADDATZ: Do you talk to General McChrystal?
PETRAEUS: I actually e-mail him. A fair amount. In fact, my wife was just out for dinner with his wife -- the other day. I've been very pleased to see that -- there really have been some wonderful opportunities -- made available to him. He's teaching a course in leadership -- at Yale. And I think that's terrific. I mean, it would have been better at Princeton. But again, I -- this is good. (LAUGH)
So, I -- I -- I -- I'm very pleased to see the transition that he has had, frankly. He is a great soldier. He's a great warrior. The nation is only now learning what he and his forces did to help us so significantly in Iraq. During the surge. And -- when I talked earlier about getting the inputs right. There's no one who played a more central role, more significant role in that process -- than did General Stan McChrystal.
RADDATZ: And just -- just finally here can we go back to the period -- because this is your strategy, too. This wasn't just Stan McChrystal's strategy. This is your strategy for Afghanistan. And what that was like during that period. Was there a lot of back and forth with the Administration on -- on what you wanted? What they wanted?
PETRAEUS: I actually thought the process was very, very good. I've stated this a number of times on the record in the past. I'm an old professor, I guess. An old academic. And I like the exchange of ideas. I think, by the way, President Obama revels in that, too. And -- and again he fostered that kind of discussion. He wanted to leave no stone unturned. No assumption unchallenged. No idea, you know, un -- beat at a couple of times. I mean, we've proved probably that, you know, you can look at these in a number of different ways.
And I think it was very, very useful. I think what came out of that were indeed more measured expectations. Were more realistic -- goals and objectives. You didn't hear anyone after that saying that we're trying to turn Afghanistan into Switzerland in three years or less. Again, I think it was -- again, very useful -- in -- perhaps a unique process. I'm not sure of another case in which a president devoted such a substantial amount of time.
I -- I think nine or ten meetings, some of which were as long as two and a half hours of all of the principles around the situation room table. General McChrystal in by video teleconference with Ambassador EIkenberry here -- from Kabul. The Pakistani Ambassador, the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan and so forth. So --
RADDATZ: Was it ever tense?
PETRAEUS: Well, I think these situations do have them. I mean, you want creative tension, if you will. You want a degree of intellectual friction. And again -- I -- I've always been quite comfortable with that. Actually—
RADDATZ: Yes, you have been.
PETRAEUS: I mean, -- you know, go out and seek such opportunities. But again, I think that's -- that's the nature of intellectual discourse. And I think it's healthy to do that. I -- in fact, we try to foster it here. You know, we bring in outsiders. We have red teamers. We have the directed telescopes. We have all these different elements. And I've got to work occasionally to make sure that -- you know, my commanders are still clear on what it is as we're banging around ideas.
But -- early on here, I -- I put up -- in fact, it's on the wall over there. There's a Frederick Remington print called The Stampede. And I used this in Iraq, as well. And I've used it to describe the fact that I am comfortable with a somewhat chaotic situation. If you look at that print, you'll see that there's a cowboy and he's trying to keep up with this herd that is -- flat out for glory across very rocky soil.
There's a lightning bolt coming in from the sky. That might be -- I don't know. You know, an enemy attack, a tasker from higher headquarters, who knows what? It's raining sideways. The stormy -- sky and clouds and so forth. And -- you know, the brim of his hat is back, he's galloping so rapidly. And I said, "This is -- this is our experience. We're all outriders. There's a few of us that are trail bosses. The -- the cattle, if you will, are sort of the tasks.
You know, getting the cattle to the destination means that you've accomplished various missions along the way. I note that some of the cattle who get out ahead of us, and that's okay, we'll -- we'll catch up with them. Some will fall behind, we'll go back and get them. There will be casualties along the way. There are bad guys out there -- trying to kill us and to kill the cattle and so forth. And again, it's a metaphorical image -- that I have used to describe again that I am reasonably comfortable with a somewhat chaotic situation, at times. And I think that helps, certainly, in a job like this one.
RADDATZ: I have to ask you this question, 'cause I have to get you on record. And it's -- it's the question you've been asked many times. And -- and if you should change your mind, we are going to have this on tape. But (LAUGH) I think there were some people in the Administration and elsewhere who thought you might run for President some day.
PETRAEUS: I don't know where that idea came from. To be candid. And, you know, I've said no in as many different ways. And I've found some very artful ones, even including country music songs.
PETRAEUS: No, I don't think -- no political office. You know, there could be a time of, you know, serving one's country in some other fashion. But -- but it wouldn't be by elected office.
RADDATZ: Okay. I know we're out of time. And -- the only question I didn't get to ask is about Haqqani. Which you can --
PETRAEUS: Sure, go ahead.
RADDATZ: Do you have to time to -- to answer that? I know you have really focused on the Haqqani network in -- in ways that weren't done before or not to the degree you focused. Being up in the east the other day, along the border, it seems an enormous problem. Talk to me a little bit about Haqqani and whether you're satisfied with what the Pakistanis are doing.
PETRAEUS: Well, first, again, the context of all of the Pakistanis have to, let me start over --
PETRAEUS: Well, first a context. Let's recall all the -- the Pakistani Military has done in the past year and a half. Because it's carried out very impressive counterinsurgency operations. And has taken very tough casualties -- along the way and -- and so doing. It has cleared and helped -- the Swat Valley that was controlled by the Pakistani Taliban, the Tarik-e-Taliban Pakistani.
It is -- it is retaking control of virtually all of the area that used to be known as a Northwest Frontier Province, now Khyber Platooka (PH). It has done the same and several of the agencies of the federally administered tribal areas, they're very mountainous, border areas. Always controlled by various tribal elements— with some central government oversight. But certainly, there are still important safe havens and sanctuaries that are enjoyed by some of the elements -- that threaten Pakistan. The TTP, the very worrisome Punjabi Taliban, where some youth -- young men from the Punjab -- not just now from the tribal areas, but have gone to the FATA, have been radicalized by Haqqani, by the Pakistani Taliban, by Al Qaeda and others.
And then, of course, the Haqqani Network and -- and elements of Al Qaeda in North Waziristan -- as well. Clearly there's a sense, I think, among all participants here, in all -- and all of the policymakers and President Karzai has stated this on a number of occasions. That there's a limit to the progress you can make here in Afghanistan if there is not also additional pressure put on the extremists -- who are in sanctuaries outside -- the country of Afghanistan. That has, obviously, been shared with various Afghan leaders. In fact, evidentiary quality information has been provided to those leaders that links -- those --
RADDATZ: Pakistani leaders?
PETRAEUS: Pakistani leaders. It links -- those who -- are in charge of the Haqqani organization with direct control -- minute by minute, in some cases of attacks -- in Kabul against civilian targets -- and various official elements -- our bases -- in Bagram, in Jalalabad -- and so forth. And in fact, very recently, of course -- we repelled at considerable loss to the Haqqani Network. Killed 31 Hiqqani fighters. Killed the leader of it, as he was trying to get back to Pakistan and then subsequently captured some of the subordinate leaders, as well.
So, it's very important, obviously, that additional pressure be put on them. Obviously, there are activities that take place there that we don't discuss and do put our additional pressure on them. And Pakistan press is pretty good reporting those and the frequency with which they occur. But there's no question that there's gonna have to be continued dialogue, continued cooperation. We do have very good military coordination -- tripartite coordination between Pakistan -- coalition -- and also Afghan military elements. On what happens right along the border. So when one side conducts an operation that might push bad guys on the other side that the other side is waiting in that kind of activity. But the sanctuaries and safe havens again -- there will have to be more done about them.
RADDATZ: And you're putting pressure on –
PETRAEUS: So, there will have to be more pressure on them. There's no question.