Live Blogging Petraeus
Not me, alas. I’m neither in attendance nor with the luxury of watching on television. WaPo’s Thomas Ricks, however, is carrying on the tradition proudly. Start at the top and scroll down (or, since the posts are in reverse order, you could go in the other direction).
Highlights thus far:
- Tom Lantos isn’t buying what Petraeus is selling. Note that Petraeus hasn’t said anything yet.
- Duncan Hunter defends the quality of Iraqi forces. Ricks quips, “It’ll be interesting to see how the general handles this when they finally let him speak.”
UPDATE: Mike Nizza‘s doing same for NYT. He’s doing a stream of consciousness style rather than multiple posts.
- Mr. Crocker joined Gen. Petraeus in pointing out that our loss in Iraq will be Iran’s gain: “The Iranian president has already announced that Iran will fill any vacuum in Iraq.” He continues, “Our current course is hard. The alternatives are far worse.”
Quick stories with the testimony still underway:
Slow Progress Being Made in Iraq, Petraeus Tells Congress (David Stout, NYT)
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American military commander in Iraq, told Congress this afternoon that the United States by next summer should be able to reduce its troop strength there to about 130,000, or what it was before the recent increase. Returning to the “pre-surge” strength by pulling out 30,000 troops could probably be done without jeopardizing the hard-won progress made in Iraq, General Petraeus told House members at an emotionally charged hearing that was in some ways reminiscent of the Vietnam era. He said no decision on further withdrawals should be made until next March.
Petraeus Says Objectives in Iraq Are Largely Being Met (William Branigin and Robin Wright, WaPo)
The top U.S. commander in Iraq told Congress today that the military objectives of the Bush administration’s troop increase strategy in Iraq “are in large measure being met,” and he forecast a reduction of U.S. forces “to pre-surge levels” without jeopardizing gains in the months ahead.
Appearing with the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq to report to Congress on military and political developments in the four-year-old war effort, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus claimed major progress for the so-called “surge,” the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq last spring. Citing a drop in the overall level of violence in Iraq, Petraeus said, “I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to pre-surge levels . . . without jeopardizing security gains we fought so hard to achieve.” He said he also believes that “it is possible to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time,” although this will be “neither quick nor easy.”
Petraeus talks of troop withdrawal (Anne Flaherty, AP) YahooNews headline
Gen. David Petraeus told Congress on Monday he envisions the withdrawal of roughly 30,000 U.S. troops by next summer, beginning with a Marine contingent later this month.
In long-awaited testimony, 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 a military uniform bearing four general’s stars and a chestful of medals, 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.”
Petraeus says troop drawdown could begin next year (Julian E. Barnes, LAT)
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, said today that U.S. troop levels need to remain at high levels until next summer, when they could be reduced to the pre-surge levels. Petraeus offered his long-awaited assessment of the U.S. strategy in Iraq, saying security was improving in the country. He said troop levels could be reduced to about 130,000 troops, or 15 brigades, by the summer of 2008.
“The military objectives of the surge are being met,” Petraeus told two House committees. “Coalition and Iraqi forces have achieved progress in the security area.”
Petraeus said that by mid-July, the last of the U.S. surge forces would leave Iraq and would not be replaced, bringing the U.S. force back down to 15 brigades. Petraeus sketched the beginning of the drawdown, saying a Marine expeditionary unit will leave Iraq this month and an Army brigade will leave by December.
But Petraeus said that given the shifting security situation, he did not think further cuts below 130,000 should be considered until March. Petraeus suggested that he would then make a recommendation for a more long-term U.S. force level in Iraq.
I’ll need more time to dig into the testimony but, certainly, this isn’t anything particularly new or insightful. Perhaps that’s an unrealistic expectation for a topic so intensely scrutinized by so many for so long. Still, little of the high-level stuff being reported thus far rises above the level of platitude.
While all the attention has been on Petraeus, the real burden falls on Crocker. While there’s room for debate over whether the surge is having its desired security effects, no credible voice tells us that the Iraqi political situation is getting better, beyond the warlords and tribal leaders taking control over affairs in some localities. And, until recently, that would have been considered a bad thing.