Army General David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker told Congress the President’s surge has started to make political reconciliation possible, but Democrat leadership is unwilling to give the Iraqi government more time and are intensifying calls for withdrawl.
Majority Sen. Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce that Democrats would produce amendments to the defense authorization bill next week to “change the course of the war in Iraq” because “the surge has failed to bring the Iraqi government closer to political reconciliation.”
Reid would not reveal specifics of the amendments. He would only say the plan presented by Petraeus to begin taking troops out of Iraq and return to pre-surge levels by the end of August 2008 was “unacceptable.”
This reporter asked Reid: “One of the things that General Petraeus has argued is that security will lead to political reconciliation. And now, that we’re almost to that point, why should we start pulling out troops when we are almost there?”
Reid replied, “Your statement that we’re almost there is just a little bit short of being ridiculous, OK?”
The question was asked again: “Do you agree that security is the key to political reconciliation?”
Reid deferred to Armed Services Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D.-Mich.). Levin answered, “The purpose of the surge was not accomplished because the politicians nationally have gone nowhere in terms of reconciling the differences and working out differences in legislation that have to be worked out for there to be national reconciliation.”
This response directly conflicts with the testimony given earlier this week by the top military commander and the U.S. diplomat.
Crocker testified to the Senate Foreign Affairs committee on Tuesday: “It is my judgment that Iraq completely unraveled in 2006 and in the beginning of 2007. Under those conditions...[it was] impossible to proceed with effective government or effective reconciliation. It is just in those last few months that those measures of violence have come down.”
“Political progress will only take place if sufficient security exists,” Petraeus stated in the same hearing.
While in Washington D.C., Petraeus and Crocker held media availability at the National Press Club on Wednesday morning. There, they reiterated their position that security was a pre-condition for united government.
Petraeus explained, “The challenge is for Iraqis to move from violence in the streets into parliament and other forms of debate.”
“There are no magic switches to flip in Iraq, not on reconciliation and not on services,” Crocker said. “Not on the hard issues This is going to take time.”
At the National Press Club, Petraeus said he thought his drawdown plan was “prudent” and “reflects my military judgment of what can be done to reduce our forces without jeopardizing the gains that we have sought so hard to achieve.”
“The central front of al Qaeda’s global war of terror is in Iraq,” is a statement Petraeus made both at the Press Club and when he testified before the Senate Armed Services committee on Tuesday.
Petraeus was also very specific in his formal testimony to Congress about the consequences of a withdrawal plan that was more rapid than the one he and Crocker had recommended.
His statement said: “Rapid withdrawal would result in the further release of the strong centrifugal forces in Iraq and produce a number of dangerous results, including a high risk of disintegration of the Iraqi Security Forces; rapid deterioration of local security initiatives; Al Qaeda-Iraq regaining lost ground and freedom of maneuver, a marked increase in violence and further ethno-sectarian displacement and refugee flows; alliances of convenience by Iraqi groups with internal and external forces to gain advantages over their rivals; an exacerbation of already challenging regional dynamics, especially with respect to Iran.”
In contrast, Reid said the following in his press conference: “It's time to reduce our large combat footprint and to fight in other areas to make this country safer….We are determined to put into law, [a measure] to significantly reduce the number of American troops below the pre-surge level.”