Monday, September 10, 2007
Petraeus Reports to Congress
There weren't any real suprises in today's testimony.
A sober assessment of the situation highlighted gains made since the surge began.
Petraeus said troop levels could return to pre-"surge" levels by next summer, allowing the withdrawal of some 30,000 combat forces, beginning with a Marine contingent later this month. That would leave roughly 130,000 troops still in Iraq. He also recommended further troop cuts eventually, though he didn't specify how deep those cuts might be.
Petraeus used a phalanx of charts and graphs to hammer his case home: Despite tactical setbacks, violence is down throughout Iraq, especially in key regions of the country such as Baghdad and Anbar province — where, he said, Iraqis are turning against terrorists. But he added that "civilian deaths remain at an unacceptable level."
"The security situation in Iraq is improving," Petraeus said, but "innumerable challenges lie ahead."
The general also said that the Iraqi military is assuming more responsibility for the country's security.
"I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer without jeopardizing the security gains that we have fought so hard to achieve," said Petraeus, who acknowledged that the situation in the country remains "complex, difficult and sometimes downright frustrating."