Petraeus: Much of the Success of the 2007-08 Iraq Surge Has Been Wasted

Ex-commander of U.S. forces says Iraqis must shoulder much of the civil-military effort and must reconcile with the Sunnis. Future, he says, appears 'hard but not hopeless.'

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Gen. David Petraeus
Gen. David PetraeusCredit: AP

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the U.S. forces during the 2007-2008 surge in Iraq, said in a media interview that much of what that coalition created has been squandered but that the future appears "hard but not hopeless."

Petraeus, in Iraq for a conference, responded to written questions from the Washington Post.

He said that the "proximate cause of Iraq's unraveling was the increasing authoritarian, sectarian and corrupt conduct of the Iraqi government and its leader" after the last U.S. combat forces left in 2011.

The Iraq government actions "alienated the Iraqi Sunnis and once again created in the Sunni areas" fertile ground for extremism, "essentially opening the door to the takeover" by Islamic State.

Petraeus said that the current coalition is "making considerable progress" against Islamic State, the Sunni group that wants to establish a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

But the general said that the biggest threat to Iraq's long-term stability and the broader region is "Shiite militias, many backed by -- and some guided by -- Iran."

To best fight the war against Islamic State now, Petraeus said, Iraqis must provide much of the critical civil-military campaign that the coalition forces provided during the surge.

And Iraqis must be the ones to reconcile with the Sunni leaders and Sunni Arab community, he said.

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