Gen. Petraeus speaks in San Francisco

July 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
General David Petraeus spoke before a packed house in San Francisco on Thursday night. The man in charge of overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan talked about the progress and the challenges in both conflicts.

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General David Petraeus is perhaps the most high-profile military commander of his generation. He appeared in San Francisco because he was invited and the general accepted as part of an ongoing effort to reach out to the public.

To the protesters outside the Marines Memorial Club, General Petraeus is a war criminal.

"He shouldn't be honored with a wine reception, he should be charged with war crimes," says protester Stephanie Tang.

But to those who came to hear him speak, General Petraeus is a dedicated public servant.

"I vastly admire General Petraeus. He's obviously a great commander," says veteran Mike Hodge.

General Petraeus is commander of U.S. Central Command and the so-called architect of the 2007 troop surge in Iraq. On Thursday night, he spoke at a sold out event sponsored by the Marines Memorial Association and the World Affairs Council.

"We are now in a significant period of transition," says General Petraeus.

The general says in regards to Iraq, many challenges lie ahead. The country's urban areas are learning to cope without the presence of U.S. troops, who pulled out only a few weeks ago.

Thursday marked the worst violence since the pullback. More than 30 people killed in separate bomb attacks. Yet despite some of the bombings, General Petraeus points to many signs of progress.

"You do have, what you will, 'Iraq-racy,' which is the Iraqi form of Democracy. There is representation. There is forced compromise between the different political blocs, the different ethno-sectarian groupings," says General Petraeus.

But much of the general's attention lately has been on Afghanistan where Marines are going deeper into Taliban areas in the southern part of the country to reverse the cycle of violence there.

"It's going to take the extra forces that we're deploying. Of course, we're going from about 30,000 to 31,000 from the beginning of the year to 68,000 by the end of the year," says General Petraeus.

And that's exactly what these protesters didn't want to hear.

"I feel the United States should get out. Bring all the troops home," says protester Carole Seligman.

General Petraeus predicts months of fighting ahead in Afghanistan. He says about 70 percent of the sharp escalation in violence in that country happens in about 10 percent of its provinces.

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