A suspension of troops withdrawal after july, that’s what General David Petraeus, the top US military leader in Iraq, has recommended, in order to protect gains in Iraq.
Gen Petraeus and ambassador Ryan Crocker (photo) testified at the hearing, part of a two-day congressional session, to give an update on the Iraq “surge”.
He praised “significant” but “uneven” improvements in security, and said troop level would need a period of evaluation over the summer. Answering a question from John McCain, the Republican candidate, Gen Petraeus said the recent Iraqi operation in Basra was “not adequately planned”.
Gen Petraeus said security was better than when he made his last report to Congress in September and a lot better than before the start of the US troop surge, at the beginning of last year. But he said the real progress was “fragile and is reversible”.
Gen Petraeus said the planned “drawdown” of some 20,000 troops should go on to July, but then there should be a 45-day “period of consolidation and evaluation”. Currently the US has 160,000 troops in Iraq.
They testified in front of the three senators willing to succeed to George W Bush, in November. The candidates looked very differently at the situation in Iraq : Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the rivals for the Democratic candidacy, pressed for withdrawal. On the other hand, John McCain was positive about what’s going on there.
John McCain said there was a genuine chance of success in Iraq, but that a withdrawal could result in a failure, which might require the US to return to Iraq later for a far more expensive war.
He said : “Our allies, Arab countries, the UN and the Iraqis themselves will not step up to their responsibilities if we recklessly retreat.”
“Uneven and often frustratingly slow”, that’s what ambassador Crocker said about the progress in Iraq. He said that to cover the US troop presence, US and Iraq were negotiating a long-term agreement on their relations. He insisted that the deal did not envisage permanent US bases in Iraq, and would “not tie the hands of the next administration.”
Massive strategic blunder
Mrs Clinton served on the armed services committee, and condemned the decision not to submit the deal to the US Congress. She said it was time for the “orderly process of withdrawing troops”, as Iraqi leaders had failed to deliver.
Senator of New York said “it might well be irresponsible to continue the policy that has not produced the results that have been promised time and time again.”
Gen Petraeus accused Iraq’s neighbour, Iran, of funding and training Shia militias, through cells described as “special groups” by the US army.“Unchecked, the special groups pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq” Gen Petraeus said.
Barack Obama, speaking as a member of the foreign relations committee, said the US “should be talking to Iran [as it could] not stabilise the situation without them”.
He also called for a timetable for withdrawal and repeated his opinion that the US invasion had been a “massive strategic blunder”.