July 4, 2010 in City

Petraeus says military, civilians ‘part of one team’

General taking over Afghanistan war
Deb Riechmann Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry salute during the Independence Day celebrations Saturday in Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Full-size photo)

Biden meeting with Iraq leaders

 BAGHDAD – Vice President Joe Biden returned Saturday to Iraq to coax its government into picking a new prime minister, months after elections left the nascent democracy in a state of gridlock as the U.S. prepares to pull out its troops.

 Biden’s trip signals Washington’s growing impatience with Iraq’s stalled political process since the March 7 election failed to produce a clear winner.

 The vice president was upbeat, downplaying concerns that the impasse would lead to a crisis.

 “This is local politics,” Biden told reporters in brief remarks at the U.S. military base west of Baghdad. “This is not a lot different than any other government.”

 “The aim of Biden’s visit is not to impose a point of view nor an attempt to interfere in Iraq’s political process,” said Yassin Majid, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He said Biden and the prime minister would meet today to discuss plans for U.S. troops to leave Iraq as well as ways to build the new government.

KABUL, Afghanistan – America’s top diplomat in Kabul jokingly handed NATO’s new commander Gen. David Petraeus an access badge to the U.S. Embassy on Saturday, a symbolic gesture of a new partnership in the troubled U.S. management of the Afghan war.

The smiles and declarations of synergy came as Petraeus prepared to formally assume command today of a 130,000-strong international force at a time of rising casualties and growing doubt about how much can be achieved before July 2011, when President Barack Obama wants to begin withdrawing U.S. troops.

Petraeus called for troops and civilian staff employees to work together, saying: “In this important endeavor, cooperation is not optional.”

“Civilian and military, Afghanistan and international, we are part of one team with one mission,” Petraeus told about 1,700 invited guests, including Afghan government and military and police officials gathered at the U.S. Embassy for a pre-Fourth of July celebration marking American independence.

They were Petraeus’ first public comments since he arrived Friday night to take command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He said he would work to improve coordination between troops on the battlefield and civilians trying to bolster the Afghan government and improve the lives of the people.

His message to the Afghans in the audience: “Your success is our success.”

Petraeus, widely credited with turning around the U.S. war effort in Iraq, faces rising violence and growing doubts in Washington and other allied capitals about the effectiveness of the counterinsurgency strategy, which the general himself pioneered.

June was the deadliest month for the allied force since the war began in October 2001, with 102 deaths, more than half of them Americans. Britain’s Ministry of Defense reported that a Royal Marine was killed on Thursday in southern Afghanistan – the fifth international service member killed this month.

Later, Petraeus met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Karzai asked Petraeus to review international contracts for private security companies to help keep money from flowing out of the country. According to the statement, Petraeus told the president that he would begin his job by emphasizing “unity, accountability and transparency.”

U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry underscored the message of cooperation and said the U.S. was “committed for the long term” because a stable Afghanistan, free of extremist threats, would help ensure security in the United States.

Eikenberry had frosty relations with former NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who told Rolling Stone that he felt “betrayed” by the ambassador’s opposition last year to a request for a substantial increase in U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Eikenberry’s opposition to Obama’s decision to send 30,000 U.S. reinforcements to Afghanistan – based on doubts about Karzai’s reliability – was contained in diplomatic cables leaked in Washington, a move McChrystal suspected was aimed at protecting the ambassador if the war effort failed.

Eikenberry called Petraeus a “great friend” and handed him an access pass to the heavily guarded embassy across the street from NATO headquarters in Kabul.

“Welcome aboard. You are welcome at this embassy 24-7,” Eikenberry said.

© Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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