Thursday, January 5, 2017

Former CIA Director: ‘Very Good Conversation’ With President-elect Trump, No Hints on Future Role

Retired CIA director and former head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan David Petraeus told VOA that he does not know what role, if any, he might play in the incoming presidential administration of Donald Trump, despite being considered for secretary of state.

Petraeus told VOA this week that he had a “very good conversation” with the president-elect before Trump announced Rex Tillerson as his choice for the nation’s top diplomat.

Petraeus said he and Trump talked about the issues Trump had raised during the presidential campaign and the policies that will be created to deal with them. He said the conversation was “constructive, good and stimulating.”

Supports Tillerson

Petraeus also complimented Trump’s choice of Tillerson for the position, saying he will bring something “very important” to the position.

Petraeus noted that in the four years since he left his position at the Central Intelligence Agency, he has continued to interact with members of Congress and with members of the military. He said he expects those relationships to continue and added, “We’ll just have to see what transpires in terms of whether there’s more than that.”

Interviewed by VOA’s Kurdish service in New York, Petraeus said he thinks there must be a “comprehensive campaign” to deal with Islamic State terrorists in the Middle East. He said the effort to eliminate the terrorists must last an entire generation, so that the physical leadership as well as the mindset that the terrorist group creates is eliminated — in his words, the “virtual caliphate” as well as the physical one.

Independent Kurdish nation

Petraeus said the key to a successful government in Mosul, in northern Iraq, is a provincial government that is representative of the majority but also protects the rights of the minorities. He noted that ethnically, politically and religiously, the area is extremely diverse, which makes it particularly difficult to keep the peace.

Petraeus said he envisions a nation in the near future that retains the current border while providing “considerable autonomy” for ethnic Kurds, who have long argued for self-government. He said he can foresee “at some point in time” an independent Kurdish nation, but that at present Iraqi Kurdistan is dependent on oil revenues from other parts of Iraq.

Petraeus, who spoke for nearly an hour with a VOA reporter, also covering such topics as the future of Syria, diplomacy in the incoming Trump administration, the war in Afghanistan, and relations with Taiwan and China.

Watch: David Petraeus on foreign policy issues

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