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David H. Petraeus

David H. Petraeus

Non-resident Senior Fellow



David H. Petraeus is a retired four-star Army general and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Currently, he is a non-resident senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs where he is working with Center Director Graham Allison to explore renewed U.S. and North American competitiveness. Their work focuses on major technological, scientific and economic dynamics that are spurring renewed U.S. and North American competitiveness, exploring in particular the impact of the ongoing revolutions in energy, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and life sciences.

Petraeus served as CIA director from September 2011 to November 2012.  Prior to that, he spent 37 years in the Army, including roles as commander of U.S. and international military forces in Afghanistan, commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), and commanding general of the multi-national force in Iraq.

Since leaving the CIA, Petraeus has taken on several positions.  In addition to his Belfer Center fellowship, these include serving as chairman of the KKR Global Institute, a component of a major New York investment firm, teaching at Macauley Honors College at CUNY as well as at the University of Southern California, and supporting several non-profit organizations that serve veterans.

Petraeus holds a PhD in international relations from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.  He was among the top graduates in his class at West Point in 1974, where he later served as an assistant professor, and he graduated first in the class of 1983 at the US Army Command and General Staff College. He later was a fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.

He has received numerous U.S. military, State Department, NATO and United Nations medals and awards, and he has been decorated by 12 foreign countries.



By Date



Audrey McAvoy/AP

September/October 2016

"America’s Awesome Military"

Op-Ed, Foreign Affairs

By Michael O'Hanlon and David H. Petraeus, Non-resident Senior Fellow

The United States has the best military in the world today, by far. U.S. forces have few, if any, weaknesses, and in many areas—from naval warfare to precision-strike capabilities, to airpower, to intelligence and reconnaissance, to special operations—they play in a totally different league from the militaries of other countries. Nor is this situation likely to change anytime soon, as U.S. defense spending is almost three times as large as that of the United States’ closest competitor, China, and accounts for about one-third of all global military expenditures—with another third coming from U.S. allies and partners.

Nevertheless, 15 years of war and five years of budget cuts and Washington dysfunction have taken their toll.



Susannah George/AP

August 12, 2016

"The challenge in Mosul won’t be to defeat the Islamic State. It will be what comes after."

Op-Ed, The Washington Post

By David H. Petraeus, Non-resident Senior Fellow

In the next few months, a mixed force of Iraqi Arab and Kurdish security forces — including various Sunni and perhaps some Shiite militia elements — will enter Mosul, clear the city of Islamic State extremists and then work to bring governance, stability and reconstruction to one of Iraq’s most complex cities and its province.



Department of Defense

August 9, 2016

"The Myth of a U.S. Military ‘Readiness’ Crisis"

Op-Ed, Wall Street Journal

By David H. Petraeus, Non-resident Senior Fellow

U.S. military readiness is again a hot issue in the presidential election, but unfortunately the current debate glosses over some of the most important facts. While Congress’s sequestration-mandated cuts to military spending have hurt preparedness, America’s fighting forces remain ready for battle. They have extensive combat experience across multiple theaters since 9/11, a tremendous high-tech defense industry supplying advanced weaponry, and support from an extraordinary intelligence community.



Pete Souza, White House

May 13, 2016

"Anti-Muslim bigotry aids Islamist terrorists"

Op-Ed, The Washington Post

By David H. Petraeus, Non-resident Senior Fellow

Almost 15 years after the 9/11 attacks, and five years since the killing of the chief architect of those attacks, the United States and the world face a resurgent threat from terrorism. This stark reality should inform the national debate as we prepare to elect our next commander in chief.

As states across the Middle East have collapsed into civil war, Islamist extremist groups such as the Islamic State have exploited the upheaval to seize vast swaths of territory, which they have used to rally recruits, impose totalitarian rule over the people trapped in these areas and plot attacks against the rest of the world.



U.S. Army

April 21, 2016

"Veterans Deserve Universities' Loyalty"

Op-Ed, USA Today

By David H. Petraeus, Non-resident Senior Fellow and C.L. Max Nikias

Millions of Americans have served in the U.S. military and returned to civilian life since our nation was attacked on 9/11. Many more will join them in the years ahead. By 2019, America’s post-9/11 veterans population will exceed three million people.

Our nation owes an enormous debt to these new veterans. Indeed, they have earned recognition as America’s “New Greatest Generation.” And our universities need to support them to the fullest extent possible, including through the Yellow Ribbon Program, which removes financial barriers that often stand in the way.

February 17, 2016

"Putin Hasn't Given Up His Designs on Ukraine"

Op-Ed, Wall Street Journal

By David H. Petraeus, Non-resident Senior Fellow

In a clear response to continuing Russian aggression in Ukraine, NATO ministers last week approved the deployment of troops on the alliance's eastern flank for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Under NATO's new "enhanced" forward presence, maritime forces will be increased in the Baltic Sea and land forces sent to reinforce defenses in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

While these changes are prudent, none directly addresses the situation on the ground today in Ukraine, which remains a non-NATO member. In recent weeks, Russian-backed separatists have sharply increased their attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk -- a stark reminder that President Vladimir Putin hasn't given up his designs on eastern Ukraine.

eastern Ukraine.



July 7, 2015

"The U.S. needs to keep troops in Afghanistan"

Op-Ed, The Washington Post

By David H. Petraeus, Non-resident Senior Fellow and Michael O'Hanlon

For a leader who has been criticized for trying to rush out of wars to satisfy campaign promises, President Obama has been relatively resolute in Afghanistan. To be sure, he reduced U.S. forces there faster than some (including us) believed optimal starting in July 2011 — but only after having tripled the number of troops there during the first two years of his presidency. And the drawdown did not begin until he worked with coalition partners at the 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon to extend the mission from 2011 to 2014, a horizon extended again last year. Beyond that, while he declared an end to the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of last year, he also authorized Americans to continue to participate in numerous difficult and dangerous operations, including counterterrorism activities in support of Afghan forces, when needed. Some 10,000 U.S. troops continue the fight in support of what is principally now an Afghan-led and Afghan-dominated mission.



Jonathan Juursema

June 25, 2015

"An agenda of prosperity for America"


By David H. Petraeus, Non-resident Senior Fellow and Paras D. Bhayani

Fracking. 3D printing. Personalized medicine. Big data.

Each is a compelling technological trend. And taken together, advances in energy production, manufacturing, life sciences and IT amount to four interlocking revolutions that could make North America the next great emerging market -- as long as policymakers in this country don't impede their potential.



U.S. Department of State

June 25, 2015

"North America: the Next Great Emerging Market?"

Op-Ed, Foreign Policy

By David H. Petraeus, Non-resident Senior Fellow and Paras D. Bhayani

Congress at last appears set to give President Barack Obama the “fast-track” authority he needs to finish negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). But the protracted and sharp debate over the U.S. president’s trade agenda underscores growing skepticism in Washington about the value of further market integration and pessimism about the prospects for a robust global economy. The unstated question: Can America and its neighbors compete?



June 25, 2015

The Next Great Emerging Market?


By David H. Petraeus, Non-resident Senior Fellow and Paras D. Bhayani

In The Next Great Emerging Market? Capitalizing on North America’s Four Interlocking Revolutions, Gen. (Ret.) David H. Petraeus and Paras D. Bhayani explain why North American market integration and  leadership in energy, manufacturing, life sciences, and information technology could drive substantial economic growth. But they warn that Washington must turn today’s policy headwinds into policy tailwinds to capitalize fully on these trends.

Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.