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Petraeus explains Afghan security plan

By the CNN Wire Staff
Gen. David Petraeus discusses expanding Kabul's security with citizens of Wardak province on Thursday, August 12.
Gen. David Petraeus discusses expanding Kabul's security with citizens of Wardak province on Thursday, August 12.
  • NEW: Petraeus describes Afghan strategy as expanding an "oil spot"
  • A "substantial, significant commitment" needed in Afghanistan, Petraeus says
  • Obama administration has been criticized for announcing August 2011 start of troop withdrawal

(CNN) -- It's an unfortunate analogy, given what's happening back home, but Gen. David Petraeus relies on traditional counterinsurgency language when he talks about expanding an "oil spot" of security in Afghanistan.

In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" broadcast Sunday, Petraeus said the strategy is to establish secure zones and expand them outward.

"Oil spot is a term in counterinsurgency literature that denotes a peaceful area, a secure area," Petraeus said in the interview conducted last week. "What you're always trying to do is extend that, push that out."

He noted that Kabul, the Afghan capital, was an oil spot that now has spread to the region surrounding the city.

All but one district in Kabul province now has Afghan security forces in charge, Petraeus noted.

In Helmand province, Marjah was the oil spot that U.S.-led coalition troops and Afghan forces are trying to expand, the general said.

"This is what this is about," he said. "It's about pushing the security bubble out."

Petraeus said the strategy is working, with a number of small successes so far.

However, he made clear that it will take a lot of time and commitment to achieve the overall goal of preventing Afghanistan from again becoming a haven for international terrorism.

"I didn't come out here to carry out a graceful exit or something like that," Petraeus said of taking command in Afghanistan this summer to replace ousted Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

"We're making progress and progress is winning if you will," he said, adding that overall success requires "an accumulation of a lot of progress."

Petraeus repeated the administration line on plans to begin withdrawing some troops from Afghanistan in August 2011, saying the "transition" will be based on conditions on the ground.

"I think this is going require a substantial significant commitment and that it is going to have to be enduring to some degree," Petraeus said.

Asked if Afghan President Hamid Karzai was a trusted partner, Petraeus responded carefully that Karzai is the nation's elected leader who has mostly converging objectives with the United States.

Most importantly, Petraeus said, when the two sides differ on issues, they can be discussed frankly.

"It's a good relationship because we can have those kinds of discussions," Petraeus said, adding that he and Karzai speak on average "about once a day."

In the end, Petraeus said, success in Afghanistan is not about the United States gaining the support of the Afghan people.

"It's the Afghan government winning hearts and minds," he said.