Path to Victory: General David Petraeus

As the citizens of the United States await President Obama’s new Commander of U.S. and NATO Forces in Afghanistan to make his mark, one can only imagine the new direction that will be taken by this battle proven leader – General David Petraeus. Having had the opportunity to be embedded with General Petraeus’ Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq Team in 2004 and studying his follow on efforts, I have come to understand this leader and his abilities to be a true Warrior and Statesman who understands the many facets of combat power.

General Petraeus will have to carefully balance his relationship with Ambassador Eikenberry and his desire to be on the bully pulpit and the center of attention. We wait and wonder whether the President will remove Ambassador Eikenberry and members of his staff for recent past environment and relationship challenges with our uniformed leaders in Afghanistan. The atmosphere must change and that includes a careful analysis of our civilian leadership weaknesses. General Petraeus will also need to navigate the Afghan government, plagued by weakness, indecision and limited control. Karzai may be our last best hope, but opportunity for grassroots support of his government is slim to none. Lastly, he will need to forge a new consciousness of the US role in this region – what does it mean to win? How do we distinguish ourselves from the “occupiers” of the past and gain local Afghan citizenry traction?

Definitely a plethora of issues and directions, but General Petraeus was raised on the very fundamental notion that a General is only as good as the Warfighters that he leads. The success of his efforts, as they did in Iraq, rests on synthesizing the American spirit of the troops – seizing their willingness to serve and protect our national interests in this region, despite mixed signals from our government and populace. As Americans, we have the right to speak disparagingly about our leadership. But, when such remarks begin to infect the will and slowly ooze the fortitude, the result can be destructive to the mission. General Petraeus’ decision making process will fundamentally incorporate the impact on our Warfighters’ psyche. He knows where success and the initiative will ultimately be seized and our measure of victory defined.

In line with this focus and quick to understand the importance of security, General Petraeus will modify the rules of engagement to give our Warfighters greater freedom of action when closing with and destroying the enemy. The next six weeks will be a critical time for the new Commander. Time will be spent re-analyzing the overall mission both strategically and operationally. The definition of success and end-state will be outlined to manage expectations for our country’s civilian leadership and the realities of what our forces can actually do. In addition, an in-depth analysis of the enemy, both Taliban and forces beyond Afghanistan’s porous borders, will be executed in order to properly target lethal and non-lethal activities to achieve desired effects. Similarities and differences with Iraq will be mapped out. Activities to include gaining internal Afghanistan support to reduce violence and activities of the Taliban, similar to the General’s success in motivating Iraq’s Sunni’s to quash Iraqi insurgent elements will be reviewed in detail. Forces and agencies under the control of the Commander will work jointly, both conventional and non-conventional in tandem, to locate and destroy the enemy. In addition, a relative combat power analysis will be executed to evaluate proper force ratios and type of forces and equipment needed to achieve the desired end-state. General Petraeus’ experience in light and heavy operations may dictate heavier forces being introduced by U.S. Forces in this theater.

Simply put, Americans should feel confident that General Petraeus brings a wealth of experience as both a conventional and non-conventional fighter and team player. His eye is on the soldier and defining our end-state. Expect well-thought out changes which reflect a laser focus on defining and achieving victory.

Silver Star Recipient Lt. Col. Scott Rutter commanded the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry, capturing Baghdad International Airport during the combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lt. Col. Rutter is a frequent speaker for Young America’s Foundation on college campuses across the country.