David H. Petraeus

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David Howell Petraeus (born November 7, 1952) is a general in the United States Army and commander of Multinational Force Iraq (MNF-I), the four-star post that oversees all U.S. forces in the country. He was confirmed to that position by the Senate in a vote of 81-0 on January 26, 2007. He replaces General George Casey who has been nominated by George W. Bush to become the Chief of Staff of the United States Army. In this new position, Petraeus will oversee all forces in Iraq and carry out the new Iraqi strategy plan outlined by the Bush administration.


Early years

David Petraeus was born in 1952 to Dutch American parents. His father, Sixtus, was a sea captain who had migrated to the United States from the Netherlands after World War II. Petraeus grew up in Cornwall on Hudson, New York. He acquired the childhood nickname "Peaches" in the 1960s, when Little League teammates mispronounced his last name. He graduated Cornwall Central High School and then went on to the United States Military Academy in nearby West Point, where he skiied, played for the soccer team, and graduated tenth in his class.[1]

He married Holly Knowlton (daughter of retired Army General William A. Knowlton, who was superintendent of West Point at the time) two months after graduation. They have two grown children, a son and a daughter.

In the Army

Petraeus was commissioned an infantry officer upon graduation from West Point in 1974. He began his career with an assignment to a light infantry unit, the 509th Airborne Infantry Battalion at Vicenza, Italy; ever since, his has been a light infantry career, punctuated by assignments to mechanized units, command staffs, and educational institutions.

After leaving the 509th as a first lieutenant, Petraeus began a brief association with mechanized units when he became assistant operations officer on the staff of the 2nd Brigade, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Stewart, Georgia; in 1979, when he was promoted to captain, he was charged with a company in the same division: Company A, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized). Later, in 1988-89, he also served as operations officer to the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized)'s 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized) and its 1st Brigade. In 1981, Petraeus became aide-de-camp to the 24th Infantry Division's commanding general. (His record as aide to various general officers has led some of his detractors to characterize him as a "professional son.")

Petraeus left the 24th to continue the higher education he began at West Point, earning the General George C. Marshall Award as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Class of 1983. He subsequently earned MPA and Ph.D. degrees in international relations from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1985 and 1987, and later served as an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the U.S. Military Academy. His Ph.D. dissertation, "The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam", dealt with the influence of Vietnam on military thinking regarding the use of force. He also completed a fellowship at Georgetown University in 1994-95.

After earning his Ph.D. and teaching at West Point, Petraeus returned to the rungs of the command ladder, serving as military assistant to Gen. John Galvin, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. From there he moved to the 3rd Infantry Division and then to a post as aide an assistant executive officer to the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Carl Vuono, in Washington, D.C. He would return to the Pentagon in 1997-99 as Executive Assistant to the Director of the Joint Staff and then to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Henry Shelton.

Upon promotion to lieutenant colonel, Petraeus moved from the office of the Chief of Staff to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he commanded the 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment from 1991-93. As battalion commander of the Iron Rakkasans, he suffered one of the more dramatic incidents in career when, in 1991, he was accidentally shot in the chest during a live-fire exercise when a soldier tripped and his rifle discharged. He was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, where he was operated on by future Senator Bill Frist

During 1993-94, Petraeus continued his long association with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) as the division's director of plans, training, and mobilization. His next command, from 1995-97, was the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, centered on the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. At that post, his brigade's training cycle at Fort Polk's Joint Readiness Training Center was chronicled by novelist and military enthusiast Tom Clancy in his book "Airborne." In 1999, as a brigadier general, Petraeus returned to the 82nd, serving as the assistant division commander for operations and then, briefly, as acting commanding general. From the 82nd, he moved on to serve as Chief of Staff of XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg during 2000-01. (In 2000, Petraeus suffered his second major military injury, when, during a training jump, his parachute collapsed at low altitude, resulting in a hard landing that broke his pelvis.


Although Petraeus did not see combat before his 2003 deployment to Iraq, he completed three overseas assignments short of war earlier in his career. In 1995, his Georgetown fellowship was cut short when he was assigned to the UN command in Haiti as its Chief of Staff during Operation Restore Democracy. Four years later, as assistant division commander for operations, he deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division to Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Spring, the continuous rotation of combat forces through Kuwait during the decade after the Gulf War.

During 2001-02, as a brigadier general, Petraeus served a ten-month tour in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of Operation Joint Forge. In Bosnia, he was the NATO Stabilization Force Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations as well as the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Joint Interagency Counter-Terrorism Task Force, a command created after the September 11 attacks to add a counterterrorism capability to the U.S. forces in Bosnia.


In 2003, Petraeus, then a major general, commanded the 101st Airborne Division during V Corps's drive to Baghdad. In a campaign chronicled in detail by Rick Atkinson of the Washington Post's book "In the Company of Soldiers," Petraeus led his division through the battles of Karbala, Hilla, and Najaf (where he came under fire during an ambush by Iraqi paramilitary forces). A former colleague, retired Col. Douglas MacGregor, has criticized Petraeus's performance during the invasion as "undistinguished," but according to most if not all other accounts, his division and three brigades, although not called on as expected to participate in the battle for Baghdad, performed well clearning and protecting V Corps's and 3rd Infantry Division's threatened lines of supply along the Euphrates river valley.

An often-repeated story of Petraeus's time with the 101st is his habit of asking embedded reporters to "Tell me where this ends," an anecdote many journalists have used to portray Petraeus as an early recognizer of the difficulties that would follow the fall of Baghdad. Indeed, it was during the year after the invasion that Petraeus and the 101st gained fame for their performance in Iraq, not for the combat operations in Karbala and Najaf but for the rebuilding and administration of Mosul and Nineveh Province. Described by one former subordinate as "the most competitive man on earth," and by another as "phenomenal at getting people to reach their potential"; these two traits of intensity and cultivation of subordinate officers have widely been reported as key to his success in Mosul. Athough the security situation in Mosul became dire during 2004, Petraeus oversaw a program of public works projects and political reinvigoration that made the city one of the most peaceful in Iraq during the first year of the war.

In June 2004, less than six months after the 101st returned to the U.S., Petraeus was promoted to lieutenant general and charged with the task of training the new Iraqi Army and security forces as commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq. During his stay at MNSTC-I, Petraeus oversaw the expansion of Iraqi military and police from nearly zero-strength to considerable size, but when the general handed the command over to Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey in September 2005, Iraqi units remained plagued by desertion, sectarian loyalties, poor leadership, and equipment shortages. Nevertheless, Petraeus gained a reputation at MNSTC-I as an effective motivator of Iraqi troops, making many visits to frontline Iraqi units to perform inspections and boost morale, and during his January 2007 Senate testimony, he described both punitive measures he took against Iraqi units that did not live up to expectations and rewards he gave to those units that performed well.

During 2005-06, Petraeus served as commanding general of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center (CAC) located there. As commander of CAC, Petraeus was responsible for oversight of the Command and General Staff College and seventeen other schools, centers, and training programs as well as for development of the Army’s doctrinal manuals, training the Army’s officers, and supervising the Army’s center for the collection and dissemination of lessons learned. During his time at CAC, Petraeus oversaw two major changes geared toward improving the Army performance in Iraq and Afghanistan: he presided over the 1st Infantry Division's revamped training of advisory teams for deployment to Iraqi military and police units, and, with Marine Lt. Gen. James Mattis, he coauthored Field Manual 3-24, the Army's new official counterinsurgency doctrine. FM 3-24 relies on counterinsurgency tactics Petraeus has long espoused, particularly in Mosul, chiefly the protection of the population from insurgenct violence even at greater risk to counterinsurgent personnel.

In January 2007, as part of his overhauled Iraq strategy, President Bush announced that Petraeus would succeed Gen. George Casey as commanding general of MNF-I to lead all U.S. troops in Iraq. On January 24, Petraeus testified before the Senate on his ideas for Iraq, particularly the "surge" strategy of increased U.S. presence in Baghdad that he supports as in line with classic counterinsurgency doctrine. Despite many senators' misgivings over the troop increase, Petraeus was confirmed as a four-star general and MNF-I commander by a unanimous vote on January 27.

2007 Criticism

Colonel Douglas A. Macgregor (Ret.), U.S. Army listed some of the criticism against Gen. Petraeus on the January 23 2007 edition of the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer. He stated Gen. Petraeus was starting his new position (as U.S. military commander in Iraq) with three strikes against him.


"Number one, he commanded the 101st Air Mobile Division on the way to Baghdad. It was a singularly undistinguished command. His assistant division commander at the end of the operation was so disappointed in the failure of the 101st to contribute much to the outcome that he said the Fifth Corps had fought the war essentially with one hand tied behind its back. The Third Infantry Division had carried the fight.
Secondly, he goes to Mosul, and he worked very hard to demonstrate his sensitivity to the cultural differences, to work on a whole range of issues, but we also know that some people would say, within hours of the 101st departure, the area reverted to insurgent control. Actually speaking, the insurgents simply took it over.
And then, finally, you have the training of the Iraqi army. The Iraqi army today is, by anyone's definition, a disaster, and it is substantially his creation."[2]

According to The Denver Post writer John Aloysius Farrell, LTG Petraeus did not answer certain questions that he felt that should have been answered during his hearing on Capitol Hill.[3]



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