On Monday, the top military commander and senior U.S. diplomat to Iraq testified President Bush’s surge had been successful and troops could begin to be withdrawn.
“I have recommended a drawdown of the surge forces from Iraq,” Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said.
The general cited a significant decrease in violent incidents, a decline in civilian deaths and the “local rejection of Al Qaeda and the newfound willingness” of Iraqis in Anbar province as evidence of the surge’s success.
Petraeus said the Marine Expeditionary Unit that was deployed as part of the President’s surge would leave Iraq first. Then, if his recommendations are approved there would be a withdrawal of brigade combat teams “without replacement” in mid-December. More brigades and Marine battalions would be withdrawn through the first seven months of 2008.
Petraeus called the plan “a very substantial withdrawal.”
“2006 was a bad year in Iraq,” U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker said. “2007 has brought some improvements. The changes to our strategy last January, the surge have helped change the dynamics in Iraq for the better.”
Petraeus said their recommendations reflected their assessment. “Though we both believe this effort can succeed, it will take time. Our assessments underscore a premature drawdown of our forces would likely have devastating consequences.”
Both Petraeus and Crocker appeared on Capitol Hill to testify in a joint hearing before the House Armed Services Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee. On Tuesday, they both will testify before the Senate.
A number of anti-war protesters who attended the hearing demanded that U.S. troops immediately be removed from Iraq. Chairman of the Armed Services Committee Rep. Ike Skelton (D.-Mo.) repeatedly warned protesters to quiet themselves and those who sought to interrupt the hearing with their calls were removed.
Outside the Cannon House Office Building where the hearing took place, a small group of Code Pink protesters held a large, pink sheet that said “GENERALS LIE.” They claimed their First Amendment rights had been violated because they had not gained access inside the hearing room.