October 15th, 2010
08:17 AM ET

Petraeus: 'Right strategy' in place

The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said Friday he is confident that the tough fight in Afghanistan is headed in the right direction and he backs the president's peace moves.

"No one should have any illusions about how difficult the fight will continue to be as we and our Afghan partners strive to bring peace to a nation that has suffered through more than 30 years of continuous war," Petraeus said in a lecture at the Royal United Services Institute.

"Still, I believe that we now have the right strategy in place."

He cited military efforts to improve security in the southern Afghanistan's Kandahar and Helmand provinces and focused on the importance of increasing the size of the Afghan security forces.

He said there has been progress in literacy, health care, the insfrastructure, and the economy.

"The kind of developments we've seen, the ongoing efforts to establish an effective government, and the hard-fought but steady security gains all provide grounds to believe that our efforts in Afghanistan can achieve progress, and over time, together with the Afghan people, can enable accomplishment of our important objectives there," he said.

There have been reports of informal contact between members of the Taliban and the Afghan government, and Afghanistan has formed a High Peace Council devoted to pursuing reconciliation moves with militants. President Hamid Karzai said on CNN that unofficial talks have been taking place.

"NATO and the United States both do support president Karzai's initiatives in this regard, and the red lines he's established, in terms of reconciliation: that any seeking to do that would have to lay down their weapons, renounce violence, cut ties their ties with transnational extremists, and accept the Afghan constitution. And that is the state of play right now," Petraeus said.

Petraeus was in London on Thursday meeting with British officials about Afghan issues, including last week's failed operation to rescue a British aid worker from kidnappers in Afghanistan.

He said learning how British aid worker Linda Norgrove died was his "personal priority." Norgrove, who had been held hostage since late last month, worked for DAI, an agency that provides various services to developing nations.

Petraeus on Friday again promised to get to the bottom of Norgrove's death.

The initial report on the rescue mission by the troops who carried it out did not mention throwing a grenade, but Petraeus said "it was very clear that there was a throwing motion and an explosion that followed that, and that a grenade had been employed."

"We will investigate to determine the specific facts in a joint and completely transparent U.S.-U.K. effort that will then be shared completely with the Norgrove family as soon as the results are established. And of course, there's an issue of the autopsy that has to be conducted, that will be done here in the United Kingdom. My understanding is that will be undertaken very shortly. And that is a critical element of this, of course, because again, one cannot jump to conclusions."

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