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US Will Never Be Able To Declare Victory In Iraq, Says Petraeus
The US faces a long struggle in Iraq and will never be able to declare victory, the outgoing commander of US troops in Iraq General David Petraeus, who will be the new CENTCOM chief, admitted Thursday.
In an interview with the BBC's Newsnight programme, Petraeus warned that recent security gains were "not irreversible" and that the US still faced a "long struggle."
He summed up the situation as "still hard but hopeful," saying that progress in Iraq was "a bit more durable" but that the situation there remained fragile.
The commander, who is moving to oversee operations in Afghanistan, said he did not know that he would ever use the word "victory." "This is not the sort of struggle where you take a hill, plant the flag and go home to a victory parade," he said in contrast to American jingoism expressed after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.
"It's not war with a simple slogan," he said.
The general did not confirm media reports that the US was preparing to withdraw all troops from Baghdad by next summer, but he said that consideration was being given to removing US forces from a number of cities, including the capital.
When asked if US troops could withdraw from Iraqi cities by the middle of next year, he said that would be "doable."
Of his strategy of establishing joint security stations with Iraqi forces in key locations, Petraeus said "you can't secure the people if you don't live with them."
On his next job, he also admitted, "The trends in Afghanistan have not gone in the right direction," but said it "had to be addressed."
Afghanistan remained a "hugely important endeavor", he said.
His comments come as the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen called for a new strategy in Afghanistan that covered both sides of the border with Pakistan.
Until we work more closely with the Pakistani government to eliminate the safe havens from which they operate, the enemy will only keep coming, Mullen told the House Armed Services Committee in Washington.
On Thursday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also said he would be discussing a new approach to policing the Afghan-Pakistan border in a video conference with US President George W. Bush.
A new strategy is needed to halt the flow of Taliban and militant fighters between Pakistan and its neighbor, Brown said at his monthly press conference. --IRNA