Briefing about his new job as CIA chief in Paris, Petraeus said that Afghanistan’s neighbour wanted to eliminate al-Qaeda and Taliban militants but was struggling.
“They’ll be the first to say that there are limits to how much they can do,” said the man who headed the United States’ longest-running war for the last year, with less territory controlled by militants today but civilian deaths up.
“They have a lot of short sticks in hornets nests right now and they have to consolidate some of those gains.”
Petraeus said that Pakistan’s operations against militancy have been impressive but they “clearly need further effort to deal with some of the other elements, like the Qaeda network in North Waziristan and the Taliban in Balochistan”.
“This relationship is in a difficult stage,” Petraeus said, blaming WikiLeaks revelations, the arrest of CIA agent Raymond Davis as well as the killing by US forces of al-Qaeda kingpin Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in May.
He said it was believable that Pakistani intelligence did not know that bin Laden was residing in Abbottobad, home to much of the Pakistani military establishment, when he was killed there.
“It is credible to me that they did not know. We received no intelligence whatsoever to indicate that there was any awareness that he was there.” But while “we see the Bin Laden raid as an extraordinary success, intelligence together with military forces, Pakistan sees it as an affront to their national sovereignty, we’ve got to work our way through this”.
“We know what happens when we walk away from Pakistan and Afghanistan, we’ve literally seen the movie before, it’s called ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ (about covert US support for anti-Soviet Afghan fighters) and indeed that is not in my view a good option.
“However difficult the relationship may be it’s one we need to continue to work, it’s one where we need to recognise what our Pakistani partners have done, they’ve sacrificed several thousand soldiers and police and their civilians have suffered substantial levels of violence.”