Day 49, December 18, 2008



The US Central Command today released a letter from Commander General David Petraeus to the soldiers serving under him, with his report card on what needs to be done for the countries that concerned the Central Command.

On Afghanistan in particular he believes that the country will need a "significant and sustained effort" and require " a regional support that requires considerable support for Pakistan, which faces substantial difficulties of its own, but has shown new awareness of the need to deal with the extremists who have not only exported violence outside Pakistan's borders but have also demonstrated the threat they pose to Pakistan's very existence."

General Petraeus had on the whole taken an encouraging stance towards Pakistan, saying it was "heartening" that Islamabad was making efforts capture militants. While it has not been mentioned, this looms largely against the backdrop of the terror attacks in Mumbai which India claims is the work of Pakistan-based groups.

In other developments, the New York Times reports that President-elect Barack Obama's generals have expressed to him that his campaign promise of withdrawing troops from Iraq in 16 months may not be happening.

According to the report, in their first recommendation to Obama, Generals Petraeus and Ray Odierno, separately overall-in-charge of US military strategy in the region and in Iraq specifically, they had "made clear that the withdrawal of all combat forces under the generals’ recommendations would not come until some time after May 2010, Mr. Obama’s target."

While combat troops will be withdrawn from the cities next summer, General Odierno is of the opinion - as expressed to his troops last week - that "it was particularly important for American troops to support Iraqis in 2009, when three elections, at the provincial, district and national levels, are scheduled."

It was a long briefing of five-and-a-half hours with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, nominated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice-President elect Joseph Biden in attendance.



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