Written by Ranee Mohamed
01 Jun, 2015 | 6:39 am
Ex-CIA Director David Petraeus has told the BBC that Islamic State militants can only be defeated through a dual military and political approach.
“Industrial-strength” extremists cannot be dealt with “just with force of arms”, he said in a rare interview.
During the Iraq war, Mr Petraeus devised the strategy that saw a “surge” in US troop numbers and secured support from Sunni tribesmen against al-Qaeda.
Iraq’s US-backed army is now battling to retake territory seized by IS.Gen Petraeus described the group as “a formidable enemy”.
“It is really a conventional army that also has elements of an insurgency, and indeed significant terrorist elements as well,” he said. But when asked to compare IS with its predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq – which Gen Petraeus was instrumental in defeating – he said the latter “had much greater roots in Iraq and much greater numbers than IS”.
The US has invested in training and arming the Iraqi army
The retired general characterised the recent capture by IS of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, as “a strategic loss in the sense that the narrative of IS being on the defensive – of losing – was shown to be somewhat hollow”.
“I do think Ramadi will be retaken in a matter of weeks or less,” he added.
“But this was a big setback. At such a time, one has to look at the strategy, at refinements that need to be made, at efforts that need to be augmented, and I know that’s what’s going on right now.”
Photo caption: Gen Petraeus is now a civilian, but he still has the ear of senior officials
By Jonathan Marcus Diplomatic correspondent
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