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President Petraeus? Iraqi official recalls the day US general revealed ambition

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article2956422.ece President Petraeus? Iraqi official recalls the day US general revealed ambition By Patrick
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 13, 2007

      President Petraeus? Iraqi official recalls the day US
      general revealed ambition
      By Patrick Cockburn
      Published: 13 September 2007

      The US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus,
      expressed long-term interest in running for the US
      presidency when he was stationed in Baghdad, according
      to a senior Iraqi official who knew him at that time.

      Sabah Khadim, then a senior adviser at Iraq's Interior
      Ministry, says General Petraeus discussed with him his
      ambition when the general was head of training and
      recruitment of the Iraqi army in 2004-05.

      "I asked him if he was planning to run in 2008 and he
      said, 'No, that would be too soon'," Mr Khadim, who
      now lives in London, said.

      General Petraeus has a reputation in the US Army for
      being a man of great ambition. If he succeeds in
      reversing America's apparent failure in Iraq, he would
      be a natural candidate for the White House in the
      presidential election in 2012.

      His able defence of the "surge" in US troop numbers in
      Iraq as a success before Congress this week has made
      him the best-known soldier in America. An articulate,
      intelligent and energetic man, he has always shown
      skill in managing the media.

      But General Petraeus's open interest in the presidency
      may lead critics to suggest that his own political
      ambitions have influenced him in putting an optimistic
      gloss on the US military position in Iraq .

      Mr Khadim was a senior adviser in the Iraqi Interior
      Ministry in 2004-05 when Iyad Allawi was prime

      "My office was in the Adnan Palace in the Green Zone,
      which was close to General Petraeus's office," Mr
      Khadim recalls. He had meetings with the general
      because the Interior Ministry was involved in vetting
      the loyalty of Iraqis recruited as army officers. Mr
      Khadim was critical of the general's choice of Iraqis
      to work with him.

      For a soldier whose military abilities and experience
      are so lauded by the White House, General Petraeus has
      had a surprisingly controversial career in Iraq. His
      critics hold him at least partly responsible for three
      debacles: the capture of Mosul by the insurgents in
      2004; the failure to train an effective Iraqi army and
      the theft of the entire Iraqi arms procurement budget
      in 2004-05.

      General Petraeus went to Iraq during the invasion of
      2003 as commander of the 101st Airborne Division and
      had not previously seen combat. He first became
      prominent when the 101st was based in Mosul, in
      northern Iraq, where he pursued a more conciliatory
      line toward former Baathists and Iraqi army officers
      than the stated US policy.

      His efforts were deemed successful. When the 101st
      left in February 2004, it had lost only 60 troops in
      combat and accidents. General Petraeus had built up
      the local police by recruiting officers who had
      previously worked for Saddam Hussein's security

      Although Mosul remained quiet for some months after,
      the US suffered one of its worse setbacks of the war
      in November 2004 when insurgents captured most of the
      city. The 7,000 police recruited by General Petraeus
      either changed sides or went home. Thirty police
      stations were captured, 11,000 assault rifles were
      lost and $41m (£20m) worth of military equipment
      disappeared. Iraqi army units abandoned their bases.

      The general's next job was to oversee the training of
      a new Iraqi army. As head of the Multinational
      Security Transition Command, General Petraeus claimed
      that his efforts were proving successful. In an
      article in The Washington Post in September 2004, he
      wrote: "Training is on track and increasing in
      capacity. Infrastructure is being repaired. Command
      and control structures and institutions are being
      re-established." This optimism turned out be
      misleading; three years later the Iraqi army is
      notoriously ineffective and corrupt.

      General Petraeus was in charge of the Security
      Transition Command at the time that the Iraqi
      procurement budget of $1.2bn was stolen. "It is
      possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Iraq's
      Finance Minister, Ali Allawi, said. "Huge amounts of
      money disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps
      of metal."

      Mr Khadim is sceptical that the "surge" is working.
      Commenting on the US military alliance with the Sunni
      tribes in Anbar province, he said: "They will take
      your money, but when the money runs out they will
      change sides again."
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