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Gen. Petraeus gives us an Iraq report preview

March 19, 2008 |  5:21 pm

We may have gotten a preview today, the anniversary of the Iraq war, of the report that Gen. David Petraeus will make to Washington early next month that will certainly play a major role in shaping the political debate over national security for the fall election.

General David Petraeus, who gave CBS interview, responds to questions during a press conference in Baghdad with Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker on March 17, 2008.

A key word from that preview: Caution.

Petraeus, commander of U.S. and multinational forces in Iraq, said that while military progress has been made with a “surge” of U.S. forces, "progress in Iraq is fragile -- it is tenuous.”

"I think everybody recognizes that there has been progress in the security arena,'' the commanding general said in an interview with CBS Radio News, "but there’s no one who is doing any kind of celebration here. There is an enormous amount of hard work to be done.”

Petraeus spoke to CBS News Correspondent Cami McCormick for an interview being broadcast today and tomorrow on the CBS Radio. The general spoke on the...

same day that President Bush also addressed the war on terrorism, noting the understandable debate over the conflict but urging perseverance on the American people.

Petraeus also addressed the importance of the fight around Mosul, which Bush addressed in his anniversary speech at the Pentagon today. Operations involving U.S. and Iraqi Conventional and Special Forces are underway against Al Qaeda forces in the area. Petraeus conceded that this is "the one one province in Iraq where the level of violence has trended up over... the past six to eight months.”

And Petraeus, who was recruited for his expertise in counter-insurgency tactics, said this about the war: “You can’t kill your way out of a problem like this. You have to reconcile with some [insurgent groups] and then isolate the irreconcilables so that they can be killed, captured or run off.”

Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are scheduled to testify before Congress in a few weeks, but the general added, "We haven't decided yet what the final recommendation will be.”

-- Mark Silva

Mark Silva is a writer for the Swamp of the Chicago Tribune's Washington Bureau.

Photo: Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images