Petraeus Denies He Thought of Quitting Afghan Post

Associated Press + More

WASHINGTON — The American commanding general in Afghanistan says he was surprised by President Hamid Karzai's recent criticism of U.S. military operations in his country, but denies he considered resigning.

Army Gen. David Petraeus told ABC News in an interview that Karzai's demand that the U.S. reduce the visibility and intensity of its military operations "was a surprise." Karzai had told The Washington Post in a mid-November interview that it was time to reduce "the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life."

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Petraeus told interviewer George Stephanopoulos that he discussed Karzai's remarks with him a couple days after the interview and said Karzai responded that the remarks were a reiteration of statements he's made previously. Petraeus said he was reassured that he could continue to work with Karzai.

Karzai particularly criticized the U.S. military's night raids, saying they fuel anti-American sentiment and strengthen the Taliban's hand.

Petraeus said in the ABC interview "the Taliban is resilient," and said this is why keeping it from overrunning the country has such a high priority.

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Asked if the United States is losing the battle for the hearts of the Afghan people, Petreaus said it is important to "provide the message to the Afghan people about why we're here."

Petreaus was also asked about a letter in which the Taliban claims to control over 50 percent of Afghanistan.

"Well, my response to them would be, 'If you control so much of Afghanistan, w hy are all of your senior leaders outside the country and never set food inside the country, ' " he said.

"We believe that we have arrested the momentum that the Taliban achieved in recent years in many areas of the country," the general said, "not all, but that we have reversed it in some important areas, including right here, in Kabul, which is home to one-sixth or one-fifth of the country."