National Security

Gen. Petraeus tells Charlotte crowd to expect 'hard year' in Afghanistan

America is about to embark on the longest campaign in its longest war, the commander of the U.S. forces in the Middle East told a Charlotte audience Tuesday.

Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, told a crowd of more than 550 at the Westin Charlotte that a civil and military counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, now revving up, will take about 12-18 months.

"This is going to be a hard year," he said.

Petraeus, armed with slides and laser pointer, took questions for about an hour at a luncheon hosted by the World Affairs Council of Charlotte. Most of the conversation centered on the war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001 and will pass the Vietnam War this month as the longest war abroad in American history, many historians say.

Petraeus was optimistic, however, of a positive outcome. The United States has learned from its counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq, he said, and many of that war's key figures are now in Afghanistan. They will be joined, eventually, by 30,000 additional American forces, as well as about 8,000 that NATO has committed.

Already, he said, the U.S. has killed "boatloads of bad guys" in Afghanistan, but cautioned: "You don't just kill and capture your way out." Recent strategy shifts emphasize limiting the loss of civilian lives, he said, helping the U.S. strengthen its relationship with Afghans.

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