Former CIA Director and retired U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus said that America must tweak its strategy in Iraq and redouble its focus on Syria in the battle against the terrorist group known as ISIS. Petraeus was speaking in an interview with anchor Charlie Rose that aired on CBS Evening News on Wednesday, June 3.
The former general argued that renewed involvement of Western nations in Iraq is a critical step toward security and stability in the region, despite concern that the U.S.-led fight has failed to stop the group's progress. More than 60 nations have joined an international coalition against ISIS, CNN reports, and more than 10,000 ISIS fighters have been killed since the U.S. launched air strikes against the group in 2014, according to the Independent. Still, the group continues to make startling inroads into the region and in May, ISIS fighters captured the strategic city of Ramadi, which is just 80 miles from the capital, Baghdad.
“Are we winning in Iraq?” Rose asked. “It’s arguable,” Petraeus responded.
“Well, you know, these are fights where if you’re not winning, you’re probably losing because time is not on your side,” Petraeus said.
Petraeus expressed confidence that the battle against ISIS in Iraq could still be won with an improved strategy that mustered the political and military might of both Iraq and the coalition.
“We’ll turn it around. We will win again in Iraq. I do think that Iraq can definitely be handled. I think that it can be kept intact,” Petraeus said.
Rose asked if there was a need for increased American involvement in the region and Petraeus said there was. When Rose asked whether such involvement would mean an increase in the risk of American lives being lost, Petraeus also answered in the affirmative. He warned that ISIS has started to recruit in India and Pakistan, as well as in northern Africa, though Iraq and Syria remain the group's strongholds. The Syrian government, led by President Bashar Assad, has been accused of cooperating with ISIS in recent battles against Syrian insurgents, the New York Times reports.
“We’ve got to do a lot more in Syria,” Petraeus said. He called Syria a “geopolitical Chernobyl” in an interview with the Washington Post earlier this year.
Petraeus led the surge in American troops during the Iraq war and underscored the necessity of an extended campaign in the Middle East, despite the U.S. public's frustration over a prolonged war on terror that began 14 years ago under former President George W. Bush. “This is already a long war," he said. "It’s become longer because of the advent of the Islamic State, and we have to recognize that we have to, have to be in it.”
Petraeus resigned from the CIA in 2012 shortly after an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, came to light. He was served with a $100,000 fine and sentenced to two years of probation in late April for leaking classified information to Broadwell during that period. The government says Petraeus also lied about the leak to officials during an investigation.