Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Petraeus: 'I’m as frustrated about this as everyone else'

Above: A soldier from the 2nd Infantry Division fires an AT-4 during operations in the Diyala River valley south of Baqubah last Friday.

Senators Press Officials on Iraq Progress

Expressing deep doubts and mounting frustration, senators of both parties pressed Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker on Capitol Hill today with pointed questions about progress in the war in Iraq and the prospects for political stability and troop withdrawals.

Mr. Crocker refused to be pinned down in the face of harsh questioning today on when large-scale American involvement in Iraq might come to an end, but he signaled that it would not be soon. And General Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, offered a rare display of annoyance with the senators’ skeptical grilling, saying of the war, “I’m as frustrated about this as everyone else.”

The two men testified together before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning and are expected to do the same before the Senate Armed Services Committee this afternoon.

Read the rest at the NY Times

Petraeus says higher casualties due to aggressive tactics

Gen. David Petraeus conceded to Congress Tuesday that U.S. troop deaths have increased during the seven-month-old surge in Iraq, but he attributed the rise to more aggressive missions, not operational failures.

"We are on the offensive." Petraeus told Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who cited a "significantly greater number" of troop deaths.

In the first eight months of this year, 739 American troops died in Iraq, compared with 462 for the same period in 2006, according to the web site icasualties.org.

"When you go on the offensive, you have tough fighting," said Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq.

Read the rest at the Examiner

Crocker, Petraeus Say Iraqis Moving to Ease Sectarian Tensions

The top U.S. diplomat and military commander in Iraq said officials there are taking steps to ease sectarian tensions even as the central government remains deadlocked on broader political compromises.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Army General David Petraeus, seeking to deflect criticism from skeptical lawmakers, said these developments suggest Iraq's national leaders may be able to break their stalemate if given enough time and security.

"There are a number of examples of this where the big law, the national reconciliation has not taken place, but there are steps just happening," Petraeus told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "There are actions being taken that give you hope that they can indeed reconcile with one another, accommodate one another, and so forth."

Read the rest at Bloomberg News

Questions get tougher for Petraeus, Crocker

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker faced a more skeptical audience and tougher questioning today in Senate hearings on Day 2 of their report to Congress on progress in Iraq...

Petraeus' assessment of violence in Iraq came under early scrutiny, with Biden suggesting that the general sees the situation in overly rosy terms.

"We are still talking about 1,000 weekly attacks and you are calling that success," the senator said.

Democrats also sought to press Crocker and Petraeus on how long U.S. troops would be in Iraq, a question that was almost absent Monday.

"Should we be telling the American people we will be there five, seven, 10 years?" Biden asked.

Crocker didn't answer, arguing that it wasn't possible to know what the situation would be next summer.

Read the rest at the LA Times

US general grilled over Bush's Iraq strategy

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, faced a tough challenge on Tuesday from both Republicans skeptical about war strategy and Democrats who want a swifter withdrawal of American troops

The bipartisan grilling of Petraeus and U.S. ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker in Congress raised questions about whether President George W. Bush could count on enough of his Republican colleagues for help in staving off Democratic demands for a faster pullout.

Bush is expected to give a speech later this week on Iraq but has shown no signs of ordering drastic troop withdrawals.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

Republicans sharply question Iraq policy

Senate Republicans sharply challenged President Bush's top military general and ambassador in Iraq on Tuesday in a sign that some within the GOP retain serious misgivings about the protracted war.

"Are we going to continue to invest blood and treasure at the same rate we're doing now? For what?" asked Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who supports legislation setting a deadline to bring troops home.

The deep-seated doubt expressed at the hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reflected just how far Congress had come since the war began over four years ago. And Republican senators raised tough questions that rivaled those asked by Democratic presidential hopefuls on the panel.

Read the rest at Yahoo News

Senators raise pressure in 2nd day of Iraq hearings

The top U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Iraq faced intense new congressional questioning Tuesday, including a show of deep skepticism from a leading Republican senator, but would not be pinned down on how long they believed U.S. forces should remain in the country.

In a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker again pointed to some signs of military progress under the recent troop-increase plan. As they did Monday during a House hearing, they urged patience as the U.S. troop presence - if President George W. Bush endorses Petraeus's proposals - is reduced by 30,000 from now to July.

"This is a sober assessment, but it should not be a disheartening one," said Crocker, a career diplomat. Like Petraeus, he has been treated respectfully by lawmakers, but compared with the hearing Monday, questioning was considerably more pointed, and more bipartisan.

Senator Richard Lugar, one of the Republican Party's most respected voices on foreign matters, expressed grave doubts that current U.S. strategy could succeed without far more detailed planning extending well past July, and far greater diplomatic efforts.

"In my judgment, some type of success in Iraq is possible, but as policy makers, we should acknowledge that we are facing extraordinarily narrow margins for achieving our goals," Lugar said. "It is not enough for the administration to counsel patience until the next milestone or the next report."

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

Related Link:
Petraeus: 'We will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer'

Related Link:
Poll: 60% of Iraqis say security has worsened since 'surge'

Related Link:
Perspective: It's Fallon vs. Petraeus as dissent, infighting plague Pentagon, White House

Related Link:
GAO Auditor on Petraeus Report: 'I think you need to ask him how he defines sectarian violence'

Related Link:
Pentagon: 12,000 troop increase above 160,000 'surge' troop levels to extend into December; 40,000 troops added since February

Related Link:
Jones Commission: U.S. should lighten profile in Iraq, but Iraqi forces 12-18 months away from taking control of security

Related Link:
Jones Commission recommends disbanding national police for sectarianism; Pentagon refutes; Iraq says no

Related Link:
GAO report confirms most benchmarks unmet in Iraq

Related Link:
NIE: 'Security will continue to improve modestly during the next 6 to 12 months but... levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high'