Petraeus foresees long haul in Afghanistan

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is nine years old but the top U.S. commander there says it may be another decade before the insurgency is fully quashed.

U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, asked by ABC News whether success over the insurgency could be another nine or 10 years away, answered, “Yeah, again, in some respects, I’d say obviously what took place up until this point has been of enormous importance.

“But it is just at this point that we feel that we do have the organizations that we learned in Iraq and from history are necessary for the conduct of this kind of campaign,” he said. “We got the leaders in place, the big ideas and so forth with our Afghan partners. And now very much the resources.”

With an additional 30,000 U.S. troops fully deployed in Afghanistan, Petraeus’ charge is to turn the war around by July when the Obama administration hopes to be able to start winding down U.S. involvement there.

“July 2011 is the date when a process begins, the pace of which is determined by conditions on the ground,” Petraeus said. “And that process consists of two elements. One is transition of tasks to Afghan forces and elements of institutions because [of] its functions, not just geographic areas. And the other is the beginning of a responsible drawdown of our surge forces.”

Petraeus described the hoped-for transition as a “thinning out” of forces, rather than a “hand off” of areas.

“You do a little bit less and the Afghans do a little bit more instead of saying, ‘Tag, you’re it. You take the ball and run with it. We’re out of here.’ And we think that’s the logical approach to this,” he said.