He is credited with taming the violence in Iraq, rewriting American counter-insurgency strategy and salvaging the reputation of the US military.
When General David Petraeus steps down today as the commander of US forces in Iraq however, he will have little time to savour the plaudits from fellow soldiers and the Bush Administration.
Instead the politically savvy paratrooper will swap the Iraqi frying pan for the Afghan fire. General Petraeus will take command of all US forces in the Middle East and Central Asia and with it the unenviable task of turning round the increasingly desperate fight faced by US and Nato forces in Afghanistan — a war that he conceded was “headed in the wrong direction”.
The general was hailed as “the hero of the hour” by the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, for appearing to have pulled Iraq back from the brink of civil war after he successfully oversaw a surge of 30,000 extra US troops into the country.