No Iraq Predictions From Gen. Petraeus

Top coalition commander won't predict timetable for war.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 9:52 AM

April 27, 2007— -- Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, has been making the rounds in Washington this week, meeting with top politicians about where the war in Iraq is headed. But he has cautiously avoided questions that ask him look too far ahead into the future, especially when it comes to estimating a date for a total U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq..

"I've tried this week to stay away from predictions," Petraeus told ABC News' Jonathan Karl in a one-on-one interview. "I think that predictions at various points in the past have perhaps raised expectations that have proved difficult to meet."

Sidestepping what he calls "minefields," Petraeus avoided commenting directly on Congress' passage of the $124 billion Iraq War funding bill, which requires troop withdrawal to start by Oct. 1 -- a bill President Bush has vowed to veto.

Petraeus' thoughts on the issue are clear. When asked why he thinks it's so unlikely that all combat troops could be home by next year, he responded, "Well, again, it depends, you know, on what it is you want as an outcome, what would the implications of that be, and are you willing to accept that there could be, for example, a huge increase in sectarian violence, that al Qaeda could go on a rampage?"

In a country ravaged by sectarian violence and political unrest, the general defines victory as "one Iraq, with a government that is responsive to the populace, representative of that whole populace -- a country that can secure itself and is not certainly a sanctuary for terrorists."

But he stoppped short of naming a date for troop withdrawal.

"I think that what's appropriate right now is for us to focus on doing all that we can with the forces that we have, and those additional forces that will be on the ground by mid-June when the combat forces of the surge are all in place and operational," he said, "and then doing all that we and the Iraqi forces can do and to help the Iraqi political leadership do before we make this assessment in early September."

Petraeus noted that coalition forces have to promote reconciliation between the factions in Iraq.

"You have to bring some of these people in from the cold," he said.