Gen. Petraeus, Amb. Crocker testify before US Armed Services Committee

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

General David Petraeus
Image: United States Department of Defense.

United States General David Petraeus, the Commanding General of the Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I), and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, testified today before the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services on the security and political conditions in Iraq.

In General Petraeus' opening statement he said, "I recommended to my chain of command that we continue the drawdown of the surge combat forces and that, upon the withdrawal of the last surge brigade combat team in July, we undertake a 45-day period of consolidation and evaluation."

General Petraeus further told the Senators that the security gains that have been made in Iraq are "fragile and reversible". He said that Iran is supporting the insurgents.

Ambassador Crocker spoke about the recent fighting that took place in southern Iraq, centered around Basra. "Taken as a snapshot, with scenes of increasing violence, and masked gunmen in the streets, it is hard to see how this situation supports a narrative of progress in Iraq," he said.

"There is still very much to be done to bring full government control to the streets of Basra and eliminate entrenched extremist, criminal, and militia groups. When viewed with a broader lens, the Iraqi decision to combat these groups in Basra has major significance," said Crocker.

The ambassador also shed light on base negotiations between the US and Iraq. "The agreement will not establish permanent bases in Iraq, and we anticipate that it will expressly foreswear them," Crocker said. "The agreement will not specify troop levels, and it will not tie the hands of the next administration."

Committee chairperson Carl Levin, Michigan, criticized Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki, saying that the government of Iraq was at risk due to "incompetence and the excessively sectarian leadership."

Senators John McCain, Arizona, the ranking member of the committee, and Hillary Clinton, New York, committee member, are expected to question Petraeus and Crocker. Barack Obama, Illinois, will get his chance when Petraeus and Crocker testify before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations later today at 2:30 p.m. EDT (UTC-5).

Together the three make up the remaining major party candidates in the 2008 United States presidential election.

The proceedings, which are open to the public, were interrupted by protestors on more than one occasion. "Bring them home!" yelled one of them as he was escorted out of the room.