Former CIA Director and retired four-star Gen. David Petraeus applauded Israel for its “comprehensive” response to the Hamas terrorist attack but stressed the need to define the mission and post-conflict strategy to ensure military success in Gaza.

“At the end of the day, it is up to the political leader to make the decision and to define the mission for the military, and the military then gets on with it,” Petraeus told Fox News Digital in a Zoom interview. 

“I’m sure that the military, for example, is saying, ‘OK, boss, we can do this or do that, but do you have a vision for what comes after?’” he said, referring to the U.S. mission in Iraq. “They might literally have in the back of their minds what we experienced in Iraq.”

Petraeus labeled the effort he’s seen so far as “very comprehensive,” suggesting the IDF would be “feverishly working to identify the locations of all the hostages Hamas took,” including the dozens of Americans caught up in the conflict. 


“I think they’re doing everything they can to ensure that the Americans there can leave, not just Gaza, but those that are in Israel and want to leave and, frankly, expressing enormous concern and taking actions to see to the issues of the displaced civilians inside Gaza as well,” he explained, stressing he approaches the issue from a nonpolitical perspective.

Petraeus is the author of a new book with Andrew Roberts, “Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine,” released Tuesday that lays out four tasks that every leader – whether military or political – must accomplish to guarantee strategic effectiveness and success. Those leaders must figure out the big ideas, communicate them clearly, work “relentlessly” to implement them and refine, adapt and augment them. 

At least 4,200 people have been killed since Hamas launched thousands of missiles into Israel last week, including at least 1,400 Israeli civilians and soldiers and 30 Americans. Palestinian health authorities say at least 2,808 Palestinians have been killed and more than 10,950 wounded.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared Hamas to Nazis and ISIS during a news conference Tuesday after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, not only for targeting and murdering civilians “with unprecedented savagery” but for also “hiding behind civilians – their own civilians.” 

Israel spent the week since the attack preparing for a much-anticipated operation in the Gaza Strip, indicating Tuesday the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will hold off on entering the territory, claiming the plans are still under development, The Telegraph reported. 

“I’m not going to comment on our future plans,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told reporters Tuesday. “[This operation] is something different. We have to break off from the old Gaza tit-for-tat. It’s going to look different — it is going to take longer, and it’s going to look totally different.


“These plans are being developed, they’ll be decided by and presented to our political leadership.” 

The divide between political and military leaders remains an important one, according to Petraeus. He clearly delineated between the two several times in his book, and he argued the distinction is necessary because of the chain of command and differing demands each type of leader faces. 

“Presidents do need to get reelected,” he noted. “They have congressional politics … national politics … alliance politics. There’s their budget deficits, a strain on the force … all of these are very legitimate issues that political leaders [and] elected officials have to consider. And they inform, if you will, what it is that a military commander should address in making the recommendation and providing options but not drive it.”

Reflecting on his time as a two-star general during the invasion of Iraq and the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, Petraeus noted some “subsequent mistakes” from the Iraq war, such as not planning for post-conflict operations, known as phase four plans, that may be taken into account for the current conflict.


“Lessons of recent error will be in the minds of the Israeli soldiers,” he told Fox News Digital. “They really need to provide a vision for their country and for the people of Gaza and, for that matter, of the West Bank and the world.

“What is the vision beyond the damage, defeat and destruction of Hamas?” he continued. “What will then govern Gaza if they take out the political wing, not just the military wing? What are the options? What could transpire? 

“Who’s going to restore the basic services, see to the needs of what will be hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and help them repair the thousands and thousands of civilian dwellings and infrastructure facilities that will be damaged or destroyed?”

The former general again emphasized a dire need for vision and readiness for the aftermath of the attacks that he believes are “far worse in relative terms for Israel than were the 9/11 attacks for the United States.”

“If it is indeed not satisfactory, just a return to the status quo ante. In other words, to mow the grass again, as the terminology is for what Israel has typically done to Hamas in the wake of previous attacks. … What will be again then the mission that is given to the military?” 

The need for that clear vision grows increasingly vital as the situation threatens to grow more severe over the coming days and weeks: The IDF has engaged in a series of low-level skirmishes along the border with Lebanon after armed groups, including Iran-backed Hezbollah, reportedly fired rockets into Israel. 

Iran’s top envoy warned Monday that “preemptive action” against Israel is expected soon as the Jewish state continues bombarding Gaza, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin put 2,000 personnel on a “prepare to deploy order” to increase the U.S. military readiness to respond to the fast-moving events in and around Israel.

Fox News Digital’s Lawrence Richard and Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.