3. That Petraeus will not be drawn on President Karzai or his brother Ahmed. Admitting that he speaks with the Afghan president an average of once a day, Petraeus, according to the Times, “declined to discuss the status of Ahmed Wali Karzai, and … praised President Karzai’s efforts to attack corruption. In any case, he suggested, American leverage over Mr. Karzai is limited. ‘President Karzai is the elected leader of a sovereign country,’ he said. ‘That is how the people see him by and large; he is therefore — and has to be, for sure — our partner.’” A sharp and on-point Gregory got much the same answer out of him on MTP, but did manage to have the general admit that “in some cases we see things a little bit differently.” The Karzai exchange was one of the most interesting and combative of the hour. From the transcript:
MR. GREGORY: This may sound unrealistic, but isn’t it fair to ask, is, is there a statute of limitations on this guy? Is there a cutoff point for him where he either is with the program, with us or against us?
GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, I mean, he’s been elected for a term of office, and he will be the president during that term of office.
MR. GREGORY: But, but, but sponsored by us. I mean, without us, he can’t stay alive, can he?
GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, and the international community writ large. And, again, certainly the international community has every right, if you will, to engage with him on these kinds of issues, and that’s what—exactly what’s going on.
MR. GREGORY: But is there, is there a cutoff point for him in your mind?
GEN. PETRAEUS: Oh, no. I mean, again, this is a process. Again, this is a, a case in which each side has concerns and has, I mean, there are different pressures on all of the partners involved in this, not just the U.S. and Afghan partners, but the other international partners, our other diplomatic colleagues and so forth, and, and all of that then gets dealt with.
4. That Petraeus is one helluva pitchman. Both in print and on the tube, Petraeus showed once again that he might be the anti-McChrystal—gaffe-free, able to skirt questions and explain for readers and viewers the elasticity of the deadline set by the president. Between the papers and Gregory, Petraeus managed to mix folksy realism—“This isn’t to say that there is any kind of objective of turning Afghanistan into Switzerland in three to five years or less—Afghan good enough is good enough”—with determination—“The president didn’t send me over here to seek a graceful exit…My marching orders are to do all that is humanly possible to help us achieve our objectives”—while never giving too much away.