Following the exit of loose tongued Stanley McChrystal (who, it’s confirmed, will be leaving the military for good after the fallout from that interview), command in the Afghan conflict has passed to David Petraeus, creator of the “troop surge” and author of the coalition strategy on counter insurgency.
And Petraeus has started with a grim warning: it’s going to get worse before it gets better, there will be an increase in fighting, and the beginning of troop withdrawals from next year will only be the start of a long process of disengagement.
Why would he do that? Ah well. Here we find an experienced media operator giving his audience as unvarnished a truth as is possible, while all the time managing their expectations of what can realistically be achieved in the near future. He’s coming clean at the outset: thus he is more likely to be trusted as he takes on the US’ most challenging and sensitive command.
But openness, for David Petraeus, will not mean that any of the assembled hackery can expect open access and the odd unguarded comment any time soon. This is a far safer pair of hands – which is why Barack Obama put him there.