Petraeus Says British Not Planning Early Withdrawal

Gen. David Petraeus appeared exclusively on GMA to discuss his plans in Iraq.

ByABC News via logo
February 11, 2009, 9:16 PM

July 30, 2007 — -- Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has six weeks to show he is making progress in Iraq and getting the chaos under control.

On Sept. 15 Petraeus, the commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, will deliver a report to Congress on whether the new troop surge strategy is accomplishing its goals.

In an interview on "Good Morning America" today, Petraeus said he believes it will take until summer 2009 to attain sustainable security in Iraq.

Some reports speculated he had a detailed plan, but he said he was unprepared to unveil any such plan just yet. But according to Petraeus, the Iraqis have made progress.

"In a number of areas of Iraq, Iraqi forces are very much in charge, and in charge, and in some cases they have withstood serious challenges from extremists or al Qaeda and their affiliates," he said.

Even with his claims of progress, whispers over the weekend claimed Britain may be talking about withdrawing its troops. Petraeus said he does not believe Britain will withdraw its 5,500 troops early, despite Sunday reports that said the country was talking about doing so.

Petraeus said that despite reports the U.S. military is considering an even bigger troop buildup in addition to the 30,000 troops that have been added this year as part of President Bush's "surge" strategy, there are plans to slowly withdraw U.S. troops.

"There is a plan, over time, to gradually draw down," he said. "In fact, they have done a bit of it in recent months handing off several facilities in Basra to the Iraqi security forces and there is a plan to do a bit more of that in the months ahead."

You can catch more of GMA's exclusive interview with Petraeus Tuesday morning.

The general had said in previous interviews that the reduction could be carried out over time without undermining the mission, causing some to believe he might be considering an extension in the troop surge. He said today that an extension beyond 15 months is unlikely.

"We know that the surge has to come to an end," he said. "The Army and the Marine Corps, it's well announced that at some point that will end. We're on the record telling our soldiers that we will not ask for any extension certainly beyond 15 months."

Petraeus said that as the number of troops in the region begins to come down, he and his team want to withdraw troops without surrendering any gains they've made in Iraq.

"We are trying to stay apolitical in this whole endeavor and we will lay out what the situation is at the time," he said. "I may have by that point in time offered recommendations to the president and we will also offer our views on the implications of various ways ahead that may be under discussion."

Rumors about a tense relationship with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki have plagued the commander, including talk that al-Maliki became so angry at the strategy being pursued that he asked that Petraeus be replaced. Petraeus said the rumors are untrue.

"That there are some political factions that would like to throw sand in the gears of our relationship," he said. "I communicate to him several times a day, meet with him several times a week, generally with the ambassador as well. We have a relationship which includes good, frank and open conversation. We don't always agree, but we certainly have the strength of a relationship that allows us to discuss those issues and come to resolution on them. And at times politics trumps the military, and we accept that."