THEY order things differently in the United States. The idea that in Britain the Commander in Chief of a major military operation would brief the press and TV directly rather than the prime minister of the day is unthinkable. Yet on Sunday General David Petraeus made three major media appearances to give an account of the war in Afghanistan. He had long interviews in the New York Times and Washington Post and a TV interview on NBC. The New York Times described its interview as “the beginning of a campaign to convince an increasing sceptical public that the US-led coalition in Afghanistan can still succeed in its stated objectives.” In these circumstances it was inevitable that General Petraeus would be asked if he thought President Obama's plan for the start of a phased withdrawal of US troops in July next year was feasible. His answer was that he had not gone to Afghanistan to conduct a “graceful exit”; when pressed he said that if necessary he would tell the President that the July 2011 drawback was not practical. So once again, there is confusion over an end to the Afghanistan engagement and it is the more concerning since General Petraeus is obviously a thoughtful and disciplined officer. Perhaps his most worrying comment was that “For the first time we have the resources we have been wanting for a year-and-half.” Shouldn't that have been , “For nine years”?


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