Gen Betray-us to Icon Petraeus - Anjum Niaz - Saturday, April 30, 2011

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Bad news for our anchors and their guests back home. Once more they will have to deal with the name “Petraeus” now that he moves centre stage as the CIA chief. The name, admittedly, is a tongue-twister or, shall we say, tongue-in-cheek? In September of 2007, I “shadowed” Gen David Petraeus during his congressional hearings in Washington DC. As the architect of the Iraq surge, he was commanding the US forces there. He had convinced the Bush administration that for the final “surge” on Iraq he needed more troops on ground., a political NGO funded by billionaire George Soros, reacted sharply. It took out a full-page ad in The New York Times with his mug shot headlined “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?”

The nickname “Betray-us” stuck. Leading Democrats in the Senate and the House openly castigated President George W Bush’s favourite general. Their catcalls of “Gen Betray-us” reverberated throughout Capitol Hill, sending shockwaves to the horrified Bush administration. The Republicans hit back by calling their most successful general “King David.”

The chatter in the US media is different today. Petraeus, 58, is being called the “most iconic battle commander of his generation.” Military analysts credit him with great success when he says: “America can successfully wage war against elusive enemies.” After all, he’s the “Professor of War” whose Counterinsurgency Doctrine has paid rich dividends in Iraq.

What, then, is Counterinsurgency? Simply stated, it is “Political and military strategy or action intended to oppose and forcefully suppress insurgency.” (Get ready for more drone attacks, Gen Pasha, and even boots on the ground when Petraeus takes over as the chief spy!)

Many believe that because Petraeus was a threat to President Obama as a presidential candidate next year, his chances have been sealed by his being shut off to CIA despite the general’s telling Vanity Fair: “I’m not running for president.”

The heavily decorated general has spent more than 30 years in the army. Jack Keane, a retired four-star general says Petraeus should have been made chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after Admiral Mike Mullen’s retirement. Having “turned around two wars, I think it is outrageous that he wasn’t offered that position.”

Remember another joint chiefs of staff, Gen Colin Powell? He toyed with the idea of challenging Bill Clinton in the 1996 presidential election. Then, in 2004, there was Gen Wesley Clark, a regular on CNN, who too dreamed of the White House. Obama doesn’t want Petraeus getting the same ideas!

So how will the new CIA chief interact with Pakistan? Well, when Petraeus was commanding Iraq and Afghanistan some years ago, he told a Senate panel that militants in Pakistan “could literally take down their state” if left unchallenged. His views may remain unchanged.

Our military strategists back at the GHQ, meanwhile, are not sitting idle. They have tried pre-empting the CIA pressure by making PM Gilani hand carry a top-secret dossier for Karzai in Kabul. The Afghans have leaked the contents to America. “Look East, not West” is the message Gilani supposedly conveyed. “Look to China; not America.”

Petraeus, whose Princeton doctoral thesis was on the Vietnam War and the US use of superior technology and firepower, has perhaps checkmated the Pakistani move by getting his man to be his “eyes and ears” in Kabul. Ryan Crocker, the shrewdly suave diplomat who served in Pakistan before joining Petraeus in Baghdad as the ambassador will keep a close watch on the slippery Karzai government.

“Results, boy results,” is what Petraeus demands from his team. These are the words he heard from his Dutch dad while growing up.

The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting. Email: anjumniaz

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