Petraeus to Stay in Job; Tour Lengths Remain Untouched, Gates Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2008 The Multinational Force Iraq commander will stay where he is for the time being, and no decision has been made to shorten tour lengths for Army personnel in the U.S. Central Command area of operations, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during a Pentagon news conference today. (Video)
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates (left) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Michael Mullen hold a news conference in the Pentagon, Jan. 24, 2008. Photo by R. D. Ward
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
President Bush wants Army Gen. David H. Petraeus to stay “right where he is at least through late fall and maybe the end of the year,” Gates said.
The secretary’s statement puts to rest media speculation that Petraeus would move to another four-star command.
The secretary also addressed media reports that a decision to shorten Army tour lengths is imminent. “There has been discussion of the possibility of changing the Army rotation from the current 15 months,” Gates said. “I will make no decision changing the duration of these tours until General Petraeus, (U.S. Central Command chief Navy) Admiral (William J.) Fallon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff make their recommendations to the president and the president makes his decision.”
Gates and Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the recent increase in attacks in Iraq reinforces their contention that there is still a lot of work to be done in the country. Gates said there will be tough days and weeks ahead.
There was an increase in attacks using explosively formed projectiles -- a particularly deadly form of improvised explosive device -- in the first weeks of January. This has since returned to levels seen in December, the secretary said.
American casualties also have risen in recent weeks because of Operation Phantom Phoenix. American and Iraqi troops are aggressively going after “what we hope is the last area in Iraq where al Qaeda is very active and has caches of weapons and numbers of people,” Gates said. Al Qaeda also is targeting Iraqi concerned local citizen groups.
Operation Phantom Phoenix is in its third week, and people should expect some levels of increased violence, Mullen said. “There is a lot of hard work left, and we do expect some violence to spike on occasion,” he said.
The chairman said the overall trend in violence in Iraq is still down, but added that officials watch these indicators closely.