I just finished watching Gen. David Petraeus’s press briefing at The Pentagon Channel. He read from a prepared statement for about 15 minutes and then took questions for 45.
We’re in the early stages of this, and I have been, on occasion, bemused by people saying, how’s it going, have you won yet? And the answer is, we’ve just started. Just the second of five brigades is coming in. And again, this is going to continue. It’s going to be determined. Our soldiers are resolute. They want to see this succeed, as do their Iraqi counterparts. And that is what we are going to endeavor to do. (58:25)
There are many interesting topics in this conference. Michelle Malkin has a good summary. I just wanted to note that this is one more step in the disintermediation of traditional media sources. For example, Lauren Frayer of the Associated Press asked:
Once all the additional American troops come in … in early June… your second in command, Gen. [Raymond] Odierno [and] some military officials have said… that that troop level should remain constant until February 2008, nearly a year from now. Is that an assessment that you share?… (37:20)
“We’re some months from saying, `OK, let’s continue at this level’ or determine what else we might do,” Petraeus said. He said he had asked Odierno “to lay out options because it’s something we want to consider early before it’s staring us in the face.”
“We’ve done that, but I certainly have not reached a conclusion,” he added. “It needs to be sustained well beyond the summer, but we’ll have to see.”
Despite the general’s cautious tone, Baghdad was relatively quiet Thursday.
By posting the entire conference to the public, the Pentagon begins to counteract any selection bias or misinterpretation that might creep into published reports. Here is Gen. Petraeus’s full answer:
With respect to the assessment that Gen. Odierno has made, I don’t know that you would call that yet a recommendation. As I mentioned earlier, we sat down and we have looked at options. Again, we’re some months from saying, OK, let’s continue at this level or determine what else we might do. But I very much wanted, in fact I asked him to start laying out options, because it is something that we would like to be considering early, rather than as the decision starts to stare us in the face. So we have done that. I have certainly not reached a conclusion yet about that. I think you generally think that if you’re going to achieve the kinds of effects that we probably need, that it would need to be sustained certainly for some time well beyond the summer, but again we’ll have to see, in our experiences over the next few months as we get the troop density that is needed. As we start to operate in some of the areas that affect Baghdad. Because again, these car bomb factories tend to be – we destroyed one in Salman Pak, southeast of Baghdad, another one in the Karma area, northwest of Baghdad – tend to be in the outskits, in these very rural areas, small villages and outlying houses and farms and so forth, and we clearly have got to find as many of those as we can, to destroy them, and then obviously to interdict those that are still able to be built. (38:30)
In this case, Ms. Frayer for AP did a fine job. It’s worth watching the whole thing, to get the tone of the questions asked by reporters from Iraq, Kuwait, and the U.S.
- Richard Fernandez has notes from a March 7 conference call with Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, MNF-I Deputy Chief of Staff. “The major message was that the security plan in Iraq is working, but needed time — months at least — to fully achieve its goals…”
- Jim Michaels at USA Today has a review of changes in strategy in Iraq (via Michelle Malkin).