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Petraeus: Combat troops will likely be part of July drawdown

By Jennifer Rizzo, CNN
U.S. Gen. David Petraeus said drawdowns in July in Afghanistan will probably include withdrawing combat troops.
U.S. Gen. David Petraeus said drawdowns in July in Afghanistan will probably include withdrawing combat troops.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Petraus says he is still formulating options to provide to Obama
  • Progress is being made in getting Taliban members to walk away, he says
  • He calls criminal patronage networks a cancer in Afghanistan
  • Petraeus says his son completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan

Washington (CNN) -- Initial troop drawdowns in Afghanistan this July will probably include the withdrawal of combat troops, the commander of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan told house lawmakers on Wednesday.

Speaking to lawmakers at a House Armed Services Committee about the progress of the war in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus said he is "still formulating the options that he will provide to the president", but believes that combat forces will be included in that recommendation.

Petraeus told senators that he supported the July 2011 drawdown date when he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.

The four-star general told both committees over the two days that progress is being made in getting Taliban fighters to walk away from the insurgency. In recent months, 700 former mid- and lower-level Taliban have officially reintegrated with Afghan authorities, and about 2,000 more are in the process of reintegration, according to Petraeus.

A couple thousand more have "informally reconciled," returning home to their villages and laying down their weapons, he estimated on Tuesday.

At the group's peak, 25,000 Taliban may be active at a given time, but with the spring fighting season just beginning, it is too early to tell what their numbers are like now, Petraeus told the committee Wednesday.

"There's also no question that these are resilient organizations, and that they can find others to put into these positions," Petraeus said. He added there has been "quite a replacement of Taliban leaders in recent months," both because senior leaders have been upset by battlefield performance in Afghanistan and because in some cases the leaders "literally have enough of it" and take themselves out of the fight voluntarily.

More than the Taliban however, the Haqqani insurgent network is challenging, according to Petraeus, with senior leadership very unlikely to reconcile with the Afghanistan government.

Corruption was also a hot topic at the hearing, with many of the lawmakers questioning the general on the problem in Afghanistan society.

Criminal patronage networks, which Petraeus defined as individuals breaking the law in substantial ways by enjoying a degree of political protection and support, are a cancer in Afghanistan, Petraeus said. A U.S. task force in conjunction with the Karzai government is in place to go after these networks, but the general admitted all corruption could not be wiped out in the country.

"We are not, of course, trying to turn Afghanistan into Switzerland in a decade or less." Petraeus said "We are after what is, in a sense, good enough for Afghanistan".

Petraeus injected a personal note into the hearing, telling the lawmakers that his son completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan that was kept quiet.

"You know, I may not be at this table, probably won't be, at 2015, but I'll tell you that my son is in uniform, and Lieutenant Petraeus just completed a tour in Afghanistan, which thankfully we were able to keep very quiet, and redeployed in November after serving as an infantry platoon leader," he said. "We're very proud of what he did. He thinks he was doing something very important."