Did David Petraeus accomplish his mission in Afghanistan?

America's preeminent general will become top man at the CIA, leaving behind a bloody, ongoing struggle against the Taliban

Sgt. Jarod Schroeder searches for a Taliban rocket-launching site: Gen. David Petraeus has stepped down as leader of America's military mission in Afghanistan, so that he can head the CIA.
(Image credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Gen. David Petraeus handed over command of the war in Afghanistan on Monday to Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen, and prepared to retire from the military, so that he can move on to head the CIA. Petraeus swooped into Afghanistan after the unexpected implosion of then-commander Stanley McChrystal, and spent just a year there, presiding over a surge in U.S. troops that has, in many ways, helped on the battlefield. But as Petraeus readied to leave, the Taliban staged a series of brazen attacks and assassinations that threaten to disrupt gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops. Did Petraeus, the architect of the successful surge strategy in Iraq, come up short in Afghanistan?

The decorated general is leaving behind a mess: "By all accounts, Afghanistan is now in a tailspin," says Erin Cunningham at GlobalPost. On the eve of Monday's power-handoff ceremony, insurgents assassinated a top aide to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and days earlier, Karzai's half brother was also killed. It's clear that Petraeus' strategy of intelligence-driven surgical air strikes and night raids has been "incapable of protecting civilians from rising insurgent attacks."

"Petraeus withdraws from Afghanistan"

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Petraeus helped turn around the Afghan war: Petraeus "leaves behind a legacy of tactical and spycraft changes that spurred more killings and captures of Afghan militants while reducing insurgent attacks to their lowest level in years," says Kimberly Dozier for the Associated Press. Special operations raids from April to July led to the capture of nearly three times as many insurgents as we nabbed in the same period last year. Petraeus and McChrystal deserve credit for their successes in Afghanistan.

"Headed for CIA, Petraeus leaves a revamped warzone"

It's too early to say whether Petraeus succeeded: It's true that Afghanistan became a more dangerous place after Petraeus took charge, says Susan Sachs at Canada's Globe and Mail. But the general commanded twice as many international and Afghan soldiers as America had three years earlier. That meant more fighting, and more targets for the Taliban. But Petraeus, who arrived with "the reputation of something of a military miracle worker," had only a year to work his magic, so what happens next will reveal how much he really accomplished .

"General Petraeus leaves a still deadly Afghanistan to head CIA"

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