- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2008

BAGHDAD | U.S. Gen. David H. Petraeus said Sunday that experience in Iraq shows it will take political and economic progress as well as military action to tackle increased violence in Afghanistan.

“You don’t kill or capture your way out of an industrial strength insurgency,” he told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.

His comments come as a debate over the need to redeploy troops from Iraq to Afghanistan has become a central issue in the presidential campaign.

Gen. Petraeus, who is widely credited with pulling Iraq back from the brink of civil war, is taking over as chief of U.S. Central Command, the headquarters overseeing U.S. military involvement throughout the Middle East, as well as Afghanistan and the rest of Central Asia.

He will hand over the reins in Iraq to Lt. Gen. Ray T. Odierno on Tuesday during a ceremony at the U.S. military headquarters at Camp Victory on the western outskirts of Baghdad.

Gen. Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy has paid off in Iraq, where the number of attacks has dropped to its lowest point in more than four years. But he will face a new challenge with violence rising in Afghanistan.

It will be a delicate balancing act to tackle a resurgent Taliban enjoying refuge in the lawless border areas of Pakistan without losing ground in Iraq.

“We’ve got a situation in Afghanistan where clearly there have been trends headed in the wrong direction,” Gen. Petraeus said. “Military action is absolutely necessary, but it is not sufficient.”

“Political, economic and diplomatic activity is critical to capitalize on gains in the security arena,” he said.

The 55-year-old general assumed control of U.S. forces in Iraq about 19 months ago after President Bush ordered 30,000 additional American forces to Iraq as part of a so-called surge aimed at stopping spiraling Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian violence.

The reason for the decline in violence is hotly debated, but the U.S. military cites the troop buildup, along with a Sunni revolt that saw former insurgents turn against al Qaeda in Iraq and a Shi’ite militia cease-fire ordered by a strident American foe Muqtada al-Sadr.

Gen. Petraeus also acknowledged the military’s dual role, calling U.S. troops “builders and diplomats as well as guardians and warriors” in his farewell letter posted on the military’s Web site.

“The progress achieved has been hard-earned,” he wrote. “There have been many tough days along the way, and we have suffered tragic losses. Indeed, nothing in Iraq has been anything but hard.”

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