AP Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General David Patraeus gave tertimony today reflecting their view of America’s efforts in Iraq.
“I cannot guarantee our success in Iraq,” said Mr. Crocker, the chief of U.S. Mission in Iraq.“I only know if we leave we fail.”Gen. David Petraeus told Congress on Monday he envisions the withdrawal of roughly 30,000 U.S. combat troops from Iraq by next summer.the commanding general of the war said last winter’s buildup in U.S. troops had met its military objectives “in large measure.”As a result, he told a congressional hearing and a nationwide television audience, “I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level … by next summer without jeopardizing the security gains we have fought so hard to achieve.”Testifying in his military uniform bearing the four general’s stars of his rank and a chestful of medals he has earned in war and peace, Petraeus said he had already provided his views to the military chain of command. Rebutting charges that he was merely doing the White House’s bidding, he said firmly, “I wrote this testimony myself. It has not been cleared by nor shared with anyone in the Pentagon, the White House or the Congress.”
“Then military goal of the surge, are, in large measure being met.”
“It is possible for us to achieve our goals in Iraq over time.”
Petraeus said that a unit of about 2,000 Marines will depart Iraq later this month, beginning a drawdown that would be followed in mid-December with the departure of an Army brigade numbering 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers.
After that, another four brigades would be withdrawn by July 2008, he said. That would leave the United States with about 130,000 troops in Iraq, roughly the number last winter when President Bush decided to dispatch additional forces.
Petraeus said a decision about further reductions would be made next March.
Using charts and graphs to illustrate his points, Petraeus conceded that the military gains have been uneven in the months since Bush ordered the buildup last winter.
But he also said that there has been an overall decline in violence and said, “the level of security incidents has declined in eight of the past 12 weeks, with the level of incidents in the past two weeks the lowest since June of 2006.”
Petraeus also said the Iraqi military is slowly gaining competence and gradually “taking on more responsibility for their security.”
He cited Anbar province as an example of Iraqis turning against terrorists, adding, “we are seeing similar actions in other locations as well.”
Petraeus’ testimony came at a pivotal moment in the war, with the Democratic-controlled Congress pressing for troop withdrawals and the Bush administration hoping to prevent wholesale Republican defections.
Bush and his political allies have worked forcefully in recent weeks to shore up Republican support. One organization with ties to the administration has spent millions on television advertisements, and Bush traveled to Anbar province last week to highlight improved security in the vast western stretches of Iraq.
Bush also called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the hours before Petraeus spoke, and is expected to deliver a nationwide address on the war in the next few days.
Despite the administration’s efforts, fresh polls reflected significant public opposition to the war. A USA Today-Gallup poll taken in the past few days found that 60 percent of those surveyed favor setting a timetable for removing troops. Only 35 percent favor keeping the troops in Iraq until the situation improves.
Petraeus was one of two witnesses — Ambassador Ryan Crocker was the other — at a nationally televised hearing punctuated by numerous protests by anti-war demonstrators in the audience.
Over and over, Rep. Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat presiding, ordered police to remove the demonstrators. “This is intolerable,” he said at one point.
The lawmakers arrayed on the dias across from him listened intently.