Petraeus to Sit Down With FOX News on Final Battlefield Tour as Iraq Commander

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Gen. David Petraeus, fresh off an announcement that thousands of U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq, will give his final U.S. interview to FOX News Wednesday before handing over control of U.S.-led forces in Iraq to Gen. Raymond Odierno next week.

The transfer comes as his closest aides describe a growing confidence in the stability of Iraq.

"There is now a degree of durability in Iraq that wasn't here before," Petraeus said Tuesday, when asked what drove his latest recommendation to President Bush.

Bush just announced his plan to order 8,000 troops out of Iraq by February, and redirect a battalion of about 1,000 Marines to Afghanistan instead of Iraq.

Petraeus' public outlook, as he prepares to take the helm at Central Command, is significant from a commander who has gone out of his way to insist that success in Iraq is fragile and reversible. Aides say Petraeus consistently claims his champagne bottle is still in the back of his refrigerator.

But FOX News will join Petraeus as he takes his final battlefield tour in Iraq amid several positive trends.

Attacks in Iraq have gone from about 180 per day in June of last year to about 20 per day. Violence is down about 80 percent in the country over the last 18 months, commanders say.

Commanders in Baghdad say sectarian violence is at almost zero. And the Anbar Province, once an Al Qaeda hotbed, is now in Iraqi control, and sees fewer than 10 attacks per week.

The scenes in Iraq have changed dramatically, with street markets now bustling and children walking to school.

Petraeus will leave Iraq next week bound for Tampa as the new head of Central Command — overseeing the entire Middle East region, Afghanistan and the horn of Africa.

Senior aides say he made his troop recommendation as the top commander in Iraq, not as the next leader of Central Command — meaning the need for troops in Afghanistan "informed his decision, but didn't drive it."

FOX News has learned Odierno was also intimately involved in the calculations that went into the drawdown recommendation.

FOX News' Bret Baier contributed to this report.