I recently ran into an old comrade of General Petraeus’ in a bar in downtown Los Angeles. His buddy we will call Tom Doody, told me his friend and “brother” David Petraeus wasn’t happy with the Afghanistan situation, and he’d predicted Petraeus to step down soon.
That was a few months ago, and today the official news has come. According to a Huffington Postreport:
General David Petraeus is expected to leave his post as commander of the United States troops in Afghanistan.
According to the Washington Post:
No final decisions have been made, but military officials said that Petraeus, who took command last July, will rotate out of Afghanistan before the end of the year. The general who replaces Petraeus will have to navigate a tricky relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani leaders…
As for Tom Doody, who refused to tell me what his rank was in United States military, overheard me speaking to a friend about what a goof General Petraeus was for risking the lives of our troops and for allowing so many Afghan civilians to be murdered at the hands of the U.S. military.
Doody, like the good serviceman he is, stepped over to my table and asked to sit down. Of course, I said. “I was good friends with David,” Doody said after introducing himself, “and I can’t stand to hear this low-level character assassination about him.”
Tell me more, I asked him. My friend sunk back in the booth we shared. He was slightly afraid of this brazen ex-military man, Doody.
“I fought with Petraeus in Operation Joint Forge. We fought like a couple of unloosed demon bastards.”
I didn’t know that was much of a fight.
“Shut your mouth! I’m going to tell you about David Petraeus. I fought alongside David and fighting alongside David was like fighting alongside General George Armstrong Custer, boy. He was savage toward the enemy.”
Custer got what was coming to him, I said, and I only wish Custer would have been slaughtered sooner. Custer and George Armstrong Petraeus are cut from the same cloth, huh? Both clean as a whistle, every hair in place, both men good at placing their empathic qualities in a vacuum to go after the killing that needs to be done.
Doody held up a hand. His face was red. “Stop that nonsense.”
All right, sport, I’m just telling you about Custer.
“Don’t call me sport. I’m not a sport. I’m Tom Doody. I fought at Operation Joint Forge. I shared a bunk with David. We opened souls. We were natural as husband and wife.”
Good, I said, as long as you didn’t talk about it to anybody in the military, I’m sure that was OK.
“We didn’t talk about it. There was no time to talk. Too much fighting to do.”
The scene at the bar escalated into a grand disharmony as Doody started shouting and then, to make peace once again, ordered three whiskeys, which we downed at once.
“To Petraeus, and to Afghanistan,” we three cheered and lifted our shot glasses, “to Petraeus and Custer!” Doody finished. “American heroes.”
Petraeus has been talked about for a while as a possible successor to Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), who is expected to retire in October. Any move would be part of a broader shake-up in the administration, which will also see Defense Secretary Robert Gates retire this year.
His departure, especially with Gates on his way out, could create the space for Obama to recalibrate Afghan strategy, backing away from the military surge and focusing more on a political settlement – if he wants to do so.