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(NECN: Lauren Collins, Manchester, N.H.) - The date passed largely unnoticed in a nation preoccupied with health care reform and economic worries. But for the men and women who were on the ground, sights set on Baghdad march 19th 2003, "there was an awful lot of thinking back to where we were at the time and all those experiences that the many of us went through."
General David Petraeus was a Division Commander then and later oversaw the 2007 troop surge as the Commander of Coalition Forces in Iraq.
Attacks as frequent as 220 a day now happen fewer than 20 times a day. On Friday, the country is expected to certify the results of its second national election. Speaking to reporters before a talk at St. Anslem College Wednesday evening, Petraeus said he's proud of the progress but "I have always cautioned that progress in Iraq, though substantial, it is fragile, it is reversible."
The four-star general is now the head of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees military presence in the Middle East.
"We're the smallest of the geographic combatant commands, but we're proud to have the most problems," he jokes.
As Iraq builds is sovereignty, the focus shifts to Afghanistan, a country that Petraeus warns has unique challenges.
"This is a country that has been racked by 30 years of war and it was one of the poorest nations in the world to begin with."
But, as he says, "hard is not hopeless," and victory in Afghanistan is a must.
"We can not let Afghanistan become a sanctuary once again for transnational extremists who can sit there and plot then prepare for the kind of attack that we sustained on 9/11."
Petraeus believes the biggest battle won't be fought in any one country or even on the ground. It'll be a war fought online.
"Cyberspace is where the enemy recruits, trains, proselytizes, shares tactics, techniques and procedures, and coordinates activities."
A legal resident of the state of New Hampshire, Petraeus says he's honored to serve his country but is not interested in higher office.