General David H Petraeus: The General's Knowledge - Charles Sennott, The Sunday Times

General David H Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Iraq, looked exhausted. A competitive miler who loves to challenge young field commanders to five-mile running races and push-up contests (which he usually wins), he appears fit as ever. But there are dark circles under his eyes. Leading this war has begun to exact a visible toll.

“You are on the edge of having just enough sleep to sort of make it through every day,” he says, conceding that he has reconfigured his schedule to a less gruelling pace than when he first led the “surge” of 30,000-plus American troops into Iraq just over a year ago. “There is a point of no reservoir.”

It’s a cool, grey day outside his office inside the former Republican Palace of Saddam Hussein, in the heavily fortified green zone in Baghdad. On a delicate tea table sits a folder bulging with field reports and “weekly attack trends”, as well as a series of charts tracking the body count in Iraq. The office is in a corner of the palace he shares with Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq. Crocker arrived in Baghdad with Petraeus in February 2007. Both came intending to undo a series of mistakes by the generals and diplomats who preceded them and brought the war to the edge of defeat. Petraeus brought a new playbook: a 240-page counterinsurgency manual he wrote during 2005-6 and whose precepts he was determined to test...