Democratic Arab Center
General David H. Petraeus (USA-ret.) served for 37 years in the United States Army, including five combat commands. He was the author of the US Army’s current counterinsurgency manual and served under President Barack Obama as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), after heading the Central Command and then taking over as Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan. For the past three years, he has been a partner of the global investment firm KKR and Chairman of the KKR Global Institute. Since leaving the CIA post, he has retained a close relationship with the Obama National Security Council, serving quietly as an adviser.
On October 27, 2016, General Petraeus delivered a closing keynote address to the 25th annual US-Arab Policymakers Conference in Washington, DC, sponsored by the National Council on US Arab Relations (NCUSAR). The conference as a whole highlighted the critical importance of the United States-Gulf Cooperation Council partnership, particularly at this moment of turmoil throughout the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region.
In his keynote remarks, Gen. Petraeus spelled out the five most important lessons he learned from his experience as head of the US Central Command (Centcom), which covers the area stretching from North Africa to Afghanistan.
- Any ungoverned areas in the region between North Africa and Central Asia will be exploited by extremists.
- “Las Vegas Rules” (“What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas”) do not apply in the MENA region. “What happens in North Africa and the Middle East does not stay in North Africa and the Middle East—it spreads instability and chaos far beyond the immediate area.” It has a spill-over impact on neighboring nations, neighboring regions, and beyond. The crises in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan have created a “tsunami of refugees,” now flooding into Europe, creating the biggest problem for European governments in decades—far worse than the Euro currency and banking crisis that erupted following the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.
- The United States has to lead. There is no alternative. The United States is the indispensable and irreplaceable sole superpower in every respect, especially when it comes to key assets required to conduct the kind of warfare demanded now in the MENA region. The US strength enables the host nations to deal with the threats they face. The United States has placed an armada of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets into the field, in preparation for the assault on Mosul now underway. The intelligence fusion made possible by the United States presence is unique. Only the United States has the size and the coherence to hold together the coalition of regional forces. The United States must always work in coalitions, despite the fact that coalition management is always difficult. It is especially vital that Muslim nations are fully engaged. The fight being waged today is not, in the words of Samuel Huntington, a clash of civilizations. It is a clash within the Arab civilization, and it is an existential struggle. The role of the Arab nations is vital, because they, ultimately, have a bigger stake than the United States.
- The United States leadership role must be of a comprehensive civil-military campaign. It must go beyond counterterrorism. Drones and Delta Forces are insufficient. During the Iraq surge, General Petraeus worked in partnership with Ryan Crocker. The mission was broad: train and equip; clear and hold. What became vital was what you built on top of that military dimension. This means roads, water management systems, schools, and hospitals. You must reconcile as many Sunni Arabs as possible to succeed in Iraq today. Following the surge, the Sunni Arabs were sufficiently empowered to hold the situation together for more than three years. Then Prime Minister Maliki, who had originally cooperated in the surge, enflamed the Sunni Arabs and the entire program was temporarily suspended.
- This is a generational struggle. Therefore, it is vital to develop a sustainable strategy. The sustainability is measured in two ways: blood and treasure. It is vital, when considering that this is a long struggle extending beyond our own generation, that the expenditures are reduced to a sustainable level.
At the close of World War I, the head of the United States Expeditionary Force in Europe, General Fox Conner, trained a generation of future military commanders, including a future President of the United States, General Dwight Eisenhower. He presented three cardinal rules of warfare: Never fight unless you have to, never fight alone, and never fight for long.
General Petraeus’ five lessons learned differ from General Conner’s earlier dictums, but the world has changed drastically, and General Petraeus is clearly setting the ground-rules for 21st century warfare.
Source : Middle East Briefing