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The Spotlight Moves to Petraeus.

I have not been called a war criminal for at least 35 years. But that’s what was screamed at me when I muscled my way through a crowd of chanting anti-war protesters on my way to a briefing from General David Petraeus, Commander of the US Central command. Every senior military officer in the San Francisco Bay Area could be found in the packed, steamy hall, including at least 20 generals and admirals. Petraeus, a four star with a PhD in international affairs from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, ran through an impressive PowerPoint presentation that laid out how he was going to get our 130,000 troops out of Iraq by 2011. Only a caretaking force providing close air support from remote bases will be left behind to back a large civilian presence. A dramatic change in counterinsurgency strategies has brought the daily number of attacks from 160 down to 10, and monthly suicide bombings from 130 to 10. The goal is to “Iraqrotize” the country so it can stand on its own feet, both politically and militarily. Iraq now has a reliable military of 550,000 men, but the volatility of oil prices is creating budgetary problems. Afghanistan will be a much harder nut to crack, requiring more troops, money, and time. Priority one is to wipe out the poppy fields in the South from which the Taliban derives its financing and local support. Rising wheat prices will help this effort. Some 70% of the violence is in 10% of the country in the mountains that border Pakistan. The good news is that Pakistan is fighting its own war, not our war, for its own interests. Their nukes are secure and safe. Petraeus is bringing to bear incredibly sophisticated technology, including sensors mounted on the ground, in towers, balloons, drones, aircraft, and satellites, many of which are controlled remotely in the US and Europe. Bandwidth is his most valuable weapon. I follow the war Iraq closely, not only because of the family I have in harm’s way, but also because of the $1 trillion in immediate costs and $2 trillion in long term costs we have already run up, on top of the 4,400 American and 100,000 plus Iraqi lives lost.  I hope Petraeus is able to achieve his ambitious goals.