By Samuel Burke, CNN
Sadi Othman, the senior adviser to General David Petraeus throughout the U.S. campaign in Iraq, says that his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell was “uncharacteristic of the general, and was the only time he was unfaithful to his wife.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday, Othman said he is still in close contact with Petraeus and spoke with him earlier in the day.
“He’s very sad,” Othman said. “Very remorseful about what happened – about what he did. His focus now is on his family and to repair the damage that has been done because of this mistake that he made.”
Othman remained a confidant of Petraeus after their time in Iraq. “There was no hint. General Petraeus was a very professional solider – a great leader. And very careful about how he handled himself with people in general, not just with women.”
Othman says a “reliable source” told him that the affair started after Petraeus left his post in Afghanistan in 2008. Othman discounted any speculation of an affair with the other woman in the scandal, Jill Kelley.
Officials say the investigation began when Kelley complained to the FBI about receiving harassing emails. These were then tracked back to Paula Broawell, and the FBI says that is how they stumbled on email communications between Broawell and Petraeus – clearly demonstrating their affair.
Othman says Petraeus told him Monday that he resigned because “for him, that’s doing the honorable thing – for having done the dishonorable.”
Petraeus’ most lasting military legacy will likely be turning the tide in the Iraq war - through the 2007 surge in troops. But Othman says another legacy will be the close relationships he built with leaders in Iraq and across the Middle East.
“Personal relationships matter in everything, but especially in that part of the world. And that’s where I’m worried,” Othman told Amanpour.
Othman speculated that Petraeus could still have a role to play on the international stage even if it’s not an official government role.
Like many close to Petraeus, Othman is left reconciling the man he knew as a disciplined four-star general with the man who has admitted to an extramarital affair with a woman twenty years his junior.
“You could tell me anybody else and I would say ‘yes,’ but not him... What happened? I do not know. How? I do not know.”