Petraeus: Afghanistan War Surge Won't Have Quick Results

Petraeus said the quick progress in Iraq is easier to see when looking back.

ByABC News
December 7, 2009, 4:20 PM

Dec. 7, 2009 -- Gen. David Petraeus, who commands U.S. forces in the Middle East, said he does not expect progress in Afghanistan to mirror the quick and dramatic results achieved under the troop surge in Iraq in 2007.

Petraeus, who commanded U.S. forces in Iraq in 2007, said the Afghanistan plan will focus on selected regions and proceed in phases.

"This will be a step-by-step operational campaign," Petraeus told USA TODAY. "There will at times be increases in violence, undoubtedly, as the Taliban fight back to try to hang on to a particular safe haven and sanctuary."

Petraeus led the largely successful surge in Iraq, where a change in tactics backed by an influx of about 30,000 additional U.S. servicemembers seized the initiative from insurgents.

In Iraq, there was an initial spike in violence in early 2007, but by the time Petraeus returned to Washington that September to testify to Congress, he could point to dramatic progress.

Unlike in Iraq, Afghanistan has a rural insurgency in which militants are holed up in isolated regions that are hard to get to and have little contact with neighboring valleys.

"We do have to be measured in our expectations," said Petraeus, who heads Central Command, which is based in Tampa.

Petraeus pointed out that the quick progress in Iraq is easier to see when looking back.

"It didn't seem rapid if you were watching it on the ground, and particularly if you were looking ahead and realizing that (in) September 2007 you were going to have to testify," the general said.

In Afghanistan, U.S. forces have already launched counterinsurgency campaigns in key areas. For example, an influx of U.S. Marines this year secured much of the Helmand River Valley.

The Marines' ability to secure the region while working with Afghan security forces is being viewed as a success by the Pentagon.

"I think one of the reasons that our military leaders are pretty confident is that they have already begun to see changes where ... the Marines are present in southern Helmand," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos.