Fighting in a densely populated urban landscape is just one of the challenging aspects of Israel’s war with Hamas, said Gen. David Petraeus (retired). “There is always loss of civilian life in urban warfare. There’s enormous destruction.”
Petraeus, former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and former CIA director, gave a keynote address Nov. 16 at the 33rd Annual Review of the Field of National Security Law conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security.
Despite decades spent leading battles throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, Petraeus said he’s never faced an adversary that knows the landscape as well as Hamas.
In his new book, “Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine,” co-authored by historian Andrew Roberts, a member of the British House of Lords, Petraeus outlines four tasks that comprise strategic leadership: A comprehensive understanding of the environment; the ability to communicate plans effectively to fighting forces as well as coalition partners; the ability to oversee implementation on the ground and refine and adapt as needed.
Petraeus said the post-conflict period will be especially difficult in Gaza, as Israeli forces must “clear every building, every floor, every room, every cellar, every tunnel,” which will result in a high number of civilian deaths. “Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, and dismantle the political wing as well, which is a very difficult task.”
Today’s battlegrounds look very different from anything he faced in Iraq or Afghanistan, which adds another layer of complexity, Petraeus said. “The battlefield now is uniquely transparent. It’s the first-ever war in which everyone has a smartphone, internet access and social media onto which (they) can upload videos, photographs and so forth.”
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