LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Four-star general-turned-CIA director David Petraeus told a college audience Monday that no size of troop surge would have succeeded in war-torn Iraq without a counterinsurgency strategy that won over one-time foes and helped quell the spasm of militant attacks.
In a speech at the University of Louisville, Petraeus gave insights into the anti-insurgency campaign he masterminded and put into practice when he was sent to Baghdad as the top U.S. commander in early 2007, arriving at a peak of sectarian violence and a low point of U.S. public confidence in the war.
"In Iraq, the surge of forces, as important as that was, was not as important as the surge of the big ideas that guided the changes we made in our strategy," Petraeus told an audience that included U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who was a staunch defender of the troop surge under then-President George W. Bush.
"Indeed, when violence threatened to tear apart the very fabric of Iraqi society, no surge of forces, no matter how large, would have succeeded if we had not also changed our overarching approach," Petraeus added. "To arrest the downward spiral, we needed a new strategy."
The main conclusion in the strategy shift, he said, was "we could not expect to kill or capture our way to victory in Iraq." To succeed, soldiers needed to not only clear areas of insurgents but to keep those neighborhoods safe so the Iraqi people could rebuild.
"We determined that the decisive terrain was the human terrain, and we poured our energy, manpower and resources into securing and serving it," he said.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.