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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

American Forces Press Service

Petraeus Says U.S. Will Retain Presence in Iraq for Foreseeable Future

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2007 – The United States will retain some presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future, the commander of Multinational Force Iraq said today.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus told Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the American people understand that the United States cannot completely “unhook” from Iraq.

“The question is, ‘What is the nature of our support, and what is the level of that support?’” Petraeus said.

The general said he is not an optimist or a pessimist. “I’m a realist,” he said.

He noted there have been times for optimism in Iraq over the past years. National elections, with millions of Iraqis hoisting their purple-dyed fingers as proof they voted, were a time for optimism.

But al Qaeda in Iraq dimmed that optimism, the general said. The bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra in February 2006 ignited sectarian violence, which reached damaging levels in the winter. Petraeus said the level of violence was such “that the very fabric of Iraqi society has been torn.”

He said the way forward in Iraq will be hard, but added that “hard is not hopeless.”

During his comments, Petraeus also reflected on the challenges of leading troops in a war. “There is an awful lot of soul-searching that goes on when you are the commander of an endeavor like this, and you do occasionally ask yourself if this is worth it,” he said.

“I think it is, or I wouldn’t be engaged in it. But I ask myself periodically. I think any commander should do that, must do it.”

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