WASHINGTON — Four-star general-turned-CIA director David Petraeus almost resigned as Afghanistan war commander over President Barack Obama's decision to quickly draw down surge forces, according to a new insider's look at Petraeus' 37-year Army career.
Petraeus decided that resigning would be a "selfish, grandstanding move with huge political ramifications" and that now was "time to salute and carry on," according to a forthcoming biography.
Author and Petraeus confidante Paula Broadwell had extensive access to the general in Afghanistan and Washington for All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, due from Penguin Press in January. The Associated Press was given an advance copy.
The book traces Petraeus' career from West Point cadet to his command of two wars deemed unwinnable: Iraq and Afghanistan. Co-authored with the Washington Post's Vernon Loeb, the nearly 400-page book is part history lesson through Petraeus' eyes, part hagiography and part defense of the counterinsurgency strategy he applied in both wars.
Critics of counterinsurgency argue the strategy has not yet proved a success, with violence spiking in Iraq after the departure of U.S. troops, and Afghan local forces deemed ill-prepared to take over by the 2014 deadline.
The book is peppered with Petraeus quotes that sound like olive branches meant to soothe Obama aides who feared Petraeus would challenge their boss for the White House.
"Petraeus tried to make clear that he and Obama were in synch," Broadwell writes of Petraeus' Senate testimony on the Afghan war.
The book describes Petraeus' frustration at still being labeled an outsider from the Obama administration, even as he retired from the military at Obama's request before taking the job last summer as the CIA's 20th director.
He concedes the Afghan war is not yet won.
"He had wanted to hand (Marine Corps Gen. John) Allen ... a war that had taken a decisive turn," Broadwell writes of what had been Petraeus' goal for his successor. "He knew that, despite the hard-fought progress, that wasn't yet the case."
Yet that admission also presents a get-out clause when combined with the book's account that he considered resigning over the rapid drawdown of troops, neatly removing Petraeus from responsibility if the war goes wrong.