Army Gen. David Petraeus, the Pentagon's top commander of forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, said Sunday he still supports closing the prison camps at Guantánamo and is not troubled by President Barack Obama's inability to do so by a Jan. 22 deadline.
Petraeus, answering questions on NBC's "Meet the Press", also said he did not believe that the use of Bush-era harsh interrogation tactics on captives taken in the ongoing U.S. military offensive in Afghanistan against the Taliban would produce better intelligence.
Petraeus said his experience with the 101st Airborne Division was that you stick with the U.S. Army Field Manual and rely on the Geneva Conventions in handling war prisoners both because it's the ethical thing to do and because the blowback from using other techniques serves as a recruiting tool for the enemy.
He called episodes of detainee abuse, such as those captured in soldiers' photos at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, "non-biodegradable," meaning they never go away.
Rather, he said he supported the systematic emptying of the prison camps at the U.S. Navy base in Guantánamo in a "pragmatic and sensible manner" -– while the United States decides where to send and how to hold the last prisoners there. As of Sunday, the Pentagon had 192 detainees at Guantánamo -– about a dozen of whom the Obama administration had concluded could face either military or civilian trials.
"I've been on the record on that for well over a year as well, saying that it should be closed," the general said. But it should be done in a responsible manner. So I'm not seized with the issue that it won't be done by a certain date."
Petraeus had a hand in writing the Army Field Manual's doctrine for interrogation techniques, which he has said are "completely in line with the Geneva Conventions."