David Petraeus: U.S. ‘Can’t Completely Get Out of Endless Wars’

Appearing Tuesday on the CBS This Morning podcast, former CIA director and retired Gen. David Petraeus weighed in on President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, stating that the country “can’t completely get out of endless wars.”

Listen: 19:36-21:26

A partial transcript is as follows: 

JOHN DICKERSON: You heard the president say that his position, with respect to Syria and Turkey, was motivated by getting out of endless wars, which I think [based on] your description [of the U.S.’s operations in north Syria], is basically making the opposite case for. [The President’s] case is your maintenance scheme for dealing with a generational struggle is basically going to lead America to endless wars, if you define it as he did in this current context.

RETIRED GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS:  I absolutely understand the desire and the desirability of getting out of endless wars. Nobody understands that better than the individual who commanded our forces at the height of each of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and then the overall Middle East and Central Asia as the commander of U.S. Central Command. I am again absolutely supportive of that, except that you can’t completely get out of endless wars, because you end up going back into them. Look at what happened when we removed our combat forces from Iraq. We did not, ironically, because we couldn’t get a parliament-approved status of operation agreement and, at the end of that administration, there were 5,500 U.S. troops on the ground without a parliament-approved status of operation agreement because of necessity.


I’m not aware of any large demonstrations in the United States against the continued operations in Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan. We’ve actually gotten these down to very modest numbers, compared to, say, the 165,000 American men and women I was privileged to lead an Afghan in Iraq during the surge or the 100,000 U.S. and 50,000 additional coalition during the surge in Afghanistan.


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