Crocker, Petraeus Testify Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Iraq
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-MICH. CHAIRMAN: Good afternoon, everybody.
Today we welcome General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker for their update on the situation in Iraq.
We thank both of you for your service to this country, to the men and women that you both command and lead. You're doing so under very, very difficult circumstances.
And we ask both of you to pass along to the men and women that you do lead in this endeavor our heartfelt thanks, particularly those who risk their lives on a daily basis.
While people here have different views on the war and will continue to vigorously debate the strategy, tactics and policies relating to the war, we are united in our admiration and appreciation for those who serve there, for their families who love them and who support them.
There's much disagreement relative to the facts on the ground in Iraq, on the issue of whether or not the surge has produced significant progress in terms of security. Recent public opinion polls in Iraq indicate that Iraqi citizens feel even less secure than before the surge. According to an ABC News analysis, quote, The surge broadly is seen to have done more harm than good, with 65 to 70 percent of Iraqis saying it's worsened rather than improved security in surge areas, security in other areas, conditions for political dialogue, the ability of the Iraqi government to do its work, the pace of reconstruction and the pace of economic development.
And is Baghdad itself actually safer for citizens to go about their normal business or are large sectors of Baghdad and electricity and fuel distribution controlled by the Mahdi Army and neighborhood militias as detailed in last Sunday's New York Times?
While the facts relating to security are debated and are debatable, there seems to be little dispute on three key points that go to the heart of the matter.
First, the stated purpose of the surge, to give Iraqi politicians breathing space to work out a political settlement, has not been achieved.
Second, there will be no end to violence until Iraqis' national leaders work out their political differences. As the commission headed by General Jones reported last week, political reconciliation is the key to ending sectarian violence in Iraq.
And, third, the Iraqi politicians haven't done that. They haven't kept the commitments that they made a year ago to set the date for provincial elections, to approve a hydrocarbon law, to approve a de-Baathification law and to submit constitutional amendments to a referendum.
General Petraeus said three years ago that Iraqi political leaders were, quote, Stepping forward, leading their country courageously and making progress, in his words. Well, if they were, progress sure has stalled politically.
Ambassador Crocker is telling Congress yesterday and today that Iraqi leaders have the, quote, will to tackle the nation's pressing problems, and, quote, approach the task with a deep sense of commitment and patriotism, close quote, even though those leaders ignore their own benchmarks and the ambassador inappropriately compares Iraq's sectarian strife and slaughter to this nation's civil rights movement.
So, the administration's message to Iraqi leaders continues to be that they're doing just fine. Well, that's the exact wrong message to send the leaders who dawdle while their nation is torn apart by sectarian strife and while their people are killed and forcibly ejected by sectarian militias, or killed if they refuse to be ethnically cleansed.
The Iraqi politicians dawdle while our casualties and our expenditures keep climbing.
The GAO told us last week that most of the key promises of Iraq's political leaders, the benchmarks that they set for themselves, with relevant timetables, have been ignored by those leaders.
On January 14th of this year, President Bush said, quote, America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks that it has announced, close quote. Those words ring hollow. There has been no consequences for the Iraqi political leaders' failures to do what President Bush said they must do.
LEVIN: Year after year, the president and the administration have touted progress in Iraq and called for patience. It has been a litany of delusion, just listen to President Bush's repeated claims of progress.
October of 2003, he said, We're making progress about improving the lives of people there in Iraq.
September of '04, the president said, We're making steady progress in implementing our five-step plan.
In October of '05, the president said, Iraq has made incredible political progress.
In May of '06, the president said, We're making progress on all fronts.
In March of this year, the president said, There's been good progress.
And on July 4th, the president said, Victory in this struggle will require more patience.
Well, there has been little progress on the political front and the American people's patience with Iraq's political leaders has run out.
Success in Iraq depends on Iraqi leaders finally seeing the end of the open-ended American commitment. Success depends on doing what James Baker, Lee Hamilton and the rest of the Iraqi Study Group said we should have done a year ago: that the United States should, quote, not make an open-ended commitment to keep large number of American troops deployed in Iraq, close quote, and, quote, If the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security and governance, the United States should reduce its political, military or economic support for the Iraqi government, close quote. And that was before the surge level was increased.
Success also depends on a transition of missions. According to the Iraq Study Group, quote, By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.
At that time, the study group said, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces in rapid reaction and special operations teams and in training, equipping, advising, force protection and search-and-rescue, close quote.
Finally, presenting Iraq's political leaders with a timetable for transition of our forces from mainly combat to mainly support roles, as opposed to a timetable for ending the surge, which is a fact of life, which was going to happen by necessity, anyway -- presenting those political leaders with a timetable for transition is the only hope that Iraqi leaders will realize that their future is in their hands, not in the hands of our brave men and women who proudly wear America's uniform.
Establishing a timetable for the transition of missions will also recognize another fact of life: that the stress on our forces, especially the wear and tear on the Army and Marines, must be reduced.
Telling the Iraqis that the surge will end by the middle of next year and then we will make a decision as to whether to reduce our troop level from the basic pre-surge level of 130,000 does not change our course in Iraq. It presents an illusion of change to prevent a real change of course from occurring. It is aimed at taking the steam out of the engine of change.
I hope we are not deterred from continuing to press for true change, and that the momentum for a true change of course is not diffused. It must continue until, by our deeds, we get the Iraqi political leaders to understand that, for our security and theirs, the American presence in Iraq needs to be significantly reduced, after four and a half years of U.S. sacrifice, and that the future of their country is in their own hands.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ. RANKING MEMBER : Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank the witnesses. Obviously, and I'm -- all of us are aware that you've been literally nonstop testifying for the last day and half. And we thank you for your willingness not only to discuss with the Congress, but the American people, this very, very critical issue.
With your testimony, a debate of historic proportions begins in the United States Congress. The choices that we make now, whether to build on the success of the surge and fight for additional gains or whether to set a date for American surrender in Iraq, will affect the security of all our countrymen for decades to come.
As we all know, the American people are saddened, frustrated and angry over our past failures in Iraq. I, too, have been made sick at heart by the terrible price we've paid for nearly four years of mismanaged war. Some of us from the beginning warned against the Rumsfeld strategy of too few troops, insufficient resources and a plan predicated on hope rather than on the difficult business of stabilization and counterinsurgency.
We lost years to that strategy, and we lost that which is most precious to us: the lives of the brave men and women who fight on our behalf.
But the question today is not whether we can recover those four years -- we cannot --- but whether we end this effort in frustration and accept thereby the terrible consequences that will ensue.
I believe we cannot choose to lose in Iraq. And I will do everything in my power to see that our commanders in Iraq have the time and support they request to win this war.
The distinguished strategist Ralph Peters summed up the state of affairs well in a column today, noting that Congress' failure to support General Petraeus, quote, would be a shame, since after nearly four years of getting it miserably wrong in Iraq, we're finally getting it right.
We're getting it right because we finally have in place a strategy that can succeed, a counterinsurgency strategy which some of us have argued we should have been following from the beginning and which makes the most effective use of our strength and does not strengthen the tactics of our enemy.
We must, as General Petraeus intends, keep this strategy in place. It's the only approach that has resulted in real security improvement in Iraq.
Anyone who has traveled recently to Anbar, or to Diyala, or to Baghdad, can see the improvements that have taken place over the past months. As our witnesses will testify, violence is down, commerce is on the rise, and the bottom-up efforts to forge counterterrorism alliances are bearing tangible fruits.
There are many challenges remaining and the road ahead is long and tough. The Maliki government has not seized the opportunity presented by our efforts to move ahead with reconciliation and is not functioning as it must.
Violence, having declined significantly, remains high.
And, as Ambassador Crocker has noted, no one can be certain of success.
We can be sure, however, that should the United States Congress succeed in legislating a date for withdrawal, and thus surrender, then we will fail for certain.
Make no mistake, the consequences of American defeat in Iraq will be terrible and long-lasting.
There is, in some corners, a belief that we can simply turn the page in Iraq, come home, and move on to other things. This is dangerously wrong. If we surrender in Iraq, we will be back -- in Iraq, and elsewhere, in many more desperate fights to protect our security and at an even greater cost in American lives and treasure.
Last week, General Jim Jones testified before this committee and outlined what he believes to be the consequences of such a course. A precipitous departure, which results in a failed state in Iraq, he said, will have a significant boost in the number of extremist jihadists in the world, who will believe that they will have toppled a major power on earth and that all else is possible.
I think it will only make us less safe, it will make our friends and allies less safe, and the struggle will continue. It will simply be done indifferent in other areas. Some senators would like to withdraw our troops from Iraq, so we can get back to fighting what they believe to be the real war on terror, which is taking place somewhere else.
This, too, is inaccurate. Iraq has become the central front in the global war on terror and failure there would turn Iraq into a terrorist sanctuary in the heart of the Middle East, a host for jihadists planning attacks on America. The region could easily descend into chaos, wider war and genocide. And we should have no doubt about who will take advantage.
The Iranian president has stated his intentions bluntly, saying, and I quote, Soon we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap.
We cannot allow an Iranian-dominated Middle East to take shape in the context of wider war and terrorist safe havens. All of us, all of us want our troops to come home, but we should want them to return to us with honor, the honor of victory that is due all of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
General Petraeus and his troops ask just two things of us, the time to continue this strategy and the support they need to carry out their mission.
They must have both, and we should fight to ensure that they do. Soon this debate will move from hearing rooms to the Senate floor, where we will see, again, attempts to legislate a withdrawal from Iraq.
Given the enormous human and strategic costs such a defeat would impose on Iraq, the region, and Americans for years to come, Congress must not choose to lose in Iraq. And I will do everything in my power to ensure that we do not.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator McCain.
Again, our welcome to both of you, our thanks to both of you and to your families, that provide essential support for you in the extraordinarily difficult circumstances in which you both work.
We're indebted to you for your appearance here today and for the fact that this is the third of three long hearings for you.
PETRAEUS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Senator McCain, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to provide my assessment of the security situation in Iraq.
SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-MICH. CHAIRMAN : May I interrupt you for one moment?
PETRAEUS: Yes, sir.
LEVIN: If you choose, both of you or each of you may reduce and summarize, if you so choose.
Because of the fact that your statements have been given in full before the other committees, I'm not asking you to do that. We leave that up to you.
PETRAEUS: Mr. Chairman, I've actually -- I've cut it down a bit.
LEVIN: All right.
PETRAEUS: It didn't take much suggesting, then, to do that. But it's still...
LEVIN: That's fine. Do it as you wish.
PETRAEUS: Thank you for the opportunity to provide my assessment of the security situation in Iraq and to discuss the recommendations I have provided to my chain of command for the way forward.
As I stated in testimony to the two House committees yesterday and to the Foreign Relations Committee this morning, this is my testimony. Although I have briefed my assessment and the recommendations in it to my chain of command, I wrote this statement myself and did not clear it with anyone in the Pentagon, the White House, or Congress.
Today, I will provide a summary of the full written testimony I have provided to each of you and for the record.
As a bottom line upfront, the military objectives of the surge are in large measure being met. In recent months, in the face of tough enemies and the brutal summer heat of Iraq, coalition and Iraqi security forces have achieved progress in the security arena.
Though improvements have been uneven across Iraq, the overall number of security incidents has declined in eight of the past 12 weeks. During this time, ethno-sectarian violence has also been reduced and the number of overall civilian deaths has declined, though both are clearly still at troubling levels.
The progress is a result of many factors. Coalition and Iraqi forces have dealt significant blows to Al Qaida-Iraq and have disrupted Shia militia extremists. Additionally, in a very significant development, we and our Iraqi partners are being assisted by tribes and local citizens who are rejecting extremism and choosing to help secure Iraq.
Iraqi security forces have also continued to grow and to shoulder more of the load, albeit slowly, and amid continuing concerns about the sectarian tendencies of some elements in their ranks.
Based on all this and the further progress we believe we can achieve over the next few months, I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer. Withdrawing one quarter of our combat brigades by that time without jeopardizing the security gains that we have fought so hard to achieve.
Beyond that, while noting the situation in Iraq remains complex, difficult, and sometimes downright frustrating, I also believe that it is possible for us to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time, though doing so will be neither quick nor easy.
Having provided that a summary, I would like to review the nature of the conflict in Iraq, recall the situation before the surge, describe the current situation, and explain the recommendations I have provided to my chain of command.
The fundamental source of the conflict in Iraq is competition among ethnic and sectarian committees for power and resources. This competition will take place. The question is whether it is resolved more or less violently.
This chart shows the security challenges in Iraq. Foreign, and home-grown terrorists, insurgents, militia extremists and criminals all pushed the ethno-sectarian competition elements toward violence. Maligned actions by Syria and, especially by Iran fuel that violence. And lack of adequate governmental capacity, lingering sectarian mistrust and various forms of corruption add to the challenges.
In January 2007, in response to the horrific ethno-sectarian violence that spiraled out of control in 2006, and to an assessment in December 2006, that we were failing to achieve our objectives, a surge of forces began flowing into Iraq focusing on protecting the population and reducing sectarian violence, especially in Baghdad.
In so doing, these forces have employed counterinsurgency practices, such as living among the people they are securing. In mid-June, with all the surge brigades in place, we launched a series of offensive operations in partnership with Iraqi security forces.
These operations focused on expanding the gains achieved in the preceding months in Anbar province, pursuing Al Qaida in the Diyala river valley and several other areas, and clearing Baqouba, several key Baghdad neighborhoods, the remaining sanctuaries in Anbar province and important areas around Baghdad.
And with coalition and Iraqi forces located among the populations they are securing, we have sought to keep areas clear and to help Iraqis in rebuilding them.
All the while we have engaged in dialogue with insurgent groups and tribes leading to additional elements standing up to oppose Al Qaida and other extremists.
The progress our forces have achieved with our Iraqi counterparts has, as I noted at the outset, been substantial. While there have been setbacks as well as successes and tough losses along the way, overall our tactical commanders see improvements in the security environment.
We do not, however, just rely on gut feel or personal observations. To gauge progress and determine trends, we also conduct rigorous and consistent data collection and analysis. In fact, two U.S. intelligence agencies recently reviewed our methodology and concluded that the data we produce is the most accurate and authoritative in Iraq.
As I mentioned up front, and as the chart before you reflects, the level of security incidents has decreased significantly since the start of the surge of offensive operations in mid-June, declining in eight of the past 12 weeks, with the level of incidents in the past two weeks the lowest since June 2006.
Civilian deaths, of all categories, less natural causes, have also declined, considerably, by over 45 percent, Iraq-wide, since the height of sectarian violence in December. This is shown by the top line on this next chart. And the decline by some 70 percent in Baghdad is shown in the bottom line.
Periodic mass-casualty attacks, car bombs by Al Qaida, have tragically added to the numbers outside Baghdad, in particular. Even without the sensational attacks, however, the level of civilian deaths is of serious concern.
As the next chart shows, the number of ethno-sectarian deaths, an important subset of the overall civilian casualty figures, has also declined significantly since the height of the sectarian violence in December. Iraq-wide, as shown by the top line on this chart, ethno- sectarian deaths have come down by over 55 percent.
In Baghdad, as the bottom lines show, ethno-sectarian deaths have declined by some 80 percent since December. This chart also displays the density of sectarian incidents in various Baghdad neighborhoods, and it both reflects the progress made in reducing ethno-sectarian violence and identifies the area where more work must be done.
As we have gone on the offensive in former Al Qaida and insurgent sanctuaries, and as locals have increasingly supported our efforts, we have found a substantially increased number of arms, ammunition and explosive caches.
As this next chart shows, we have so far this year already found and cleared over 4,400 caches, nearly 1,700 more than we discovered in all of last year.
This may, in fact, be a factor in the reduction in the number of overall improvised explosive device attacks in recent months which, as this next chart shows, has declined sharply, by about one-third since June.
The change in the security situation in Anbar province has, of course, been particularly dramatic. As the next chart shows, monthly attack levels in Anbar have declined from some 1,350 in October 2006 to a bit over 200 in August of this year.
This dramatic decrease reflects the significance of the local rejection of Al Qaida and the new-found willingness of local Anbaris to volunteer to serve in the Iraqi army and Iraqi police service.
To be sure, trends have not been uniformly positive across Iraq, as is shown by this next chart depicting violence trends in several key Iraqi provinces. The trend in Nineveh province in northern Iraq, for example, has been much more up and down, until a recent decline.
And the same is true in Salahuddin province, also north of Baghdad and the site of Saddam's former hometown, though recent trends there and in Baghdad have been the right direction.
In any event, the overall trajectory in Iraq, a steady decline of incidents in the past three months, is still quite significant.
The number of car bombings and suicide attacks has also declined in each of the past five months -- the total from a high of some 175 in March as this next chart shows to about 90 this past month.
While the trend has been heartening, the number of high-profile attacks is still too high, and we continue to work hard to destroy the networks that carry out these barbaric attacks.
Our operations have, in fact, produced substantial progress against Al Qaida-Iraq. As this next chart shows, in the past eight months, we have considerably reduced the areas in which Al Qaida enjoyed sanctuary. We have also neutralized five media cells, detained the senior Iraqi leader of Al Qaida-Iraq, and killed or captured nearly 100 other key leaders and some 2,500 rank-and-file fighters.
Al Qaida is certainly not defeated. However, it is off balance and we are pursuing its leaders and operators aggressively. Of note these gains against Al Qaida are a result of the synergy of actions by conventional forces, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets, and special operations elements.
A combination of these assets is necessary to conduct effective operations against terrorist elements.
In the past six months, we have also targeted Shia militia extremists, killing or capturing over 1,400 senior leaders and fighters. It is increasingly apparent, to both coalition and Iraqi leaders, that Iran -- through the use of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps Quds Force -- seeks to turn these Shia militia extremists into a Hezbollah-like force to serve it's interest and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.
The most significant development in the past six months likely has been the increasing emergence of tribes and local citizens rejecting Al Qaida and other extremists. The success in Anbar is an example of what can happen when local Iraqis decide to oppose Al Qaida and reject its Taliban-like ideology.
While Anbar's model cannot be replicated everywhere in Iraq, it does demonstrate the dramatic change in security that is possible with the support and participation of local citizens.
As the next chart shows, other tribes have been inspired by the actions of those in Anbar and have volunteered to fight extremists, as well.
Over 20,000 such individuals are already being hired for the Iraqi police. Thousands of others are being assimilated into the Iraqi army. And thousands more are vying for a spot in Iraq's security forces.
As I noted earlier, Iraqi security forces have continued to grow, to develop their capabilities, and to shoulder more of the burden of providing security for their country.
Despite concerns about sectarian influence, inadequate logistics and supporting institutions and an insufficient number of qualified commissioned and noncommissioned officers, Iraqi units are engaged around the country.
As this next chart shows, there are now nearly 140 Iraqi army, national police and special operations forces battalions in the fight -- with about 95 of those capable of taking the lead in operations, albeit with some coalition support.
Although, their qualitative development has not always kept pace with their quantitative growth, all of Iraq's battalions have been heavily involved in combat operations that often result in a lost of leaders, soldiers and equipment. Despite the losses, a number of Iraqi units across Iraq now operate with minimal coalition assistance.
In order to take over the security of their country, the Iraqis are rapidly expanding their security forces. In fact, they have some 445,000 assigned to the Ministries of Interior and Defense now and we believe they will be close to 480,000 by year's end.
Significantly, in 2007, Iraq will, as in 2006, spend more on it's security forces than it will receive in security assistance from the United States. In fact, Iraq is becoming one of the United States' larger foreign military sales customers; committing some $1.6 billion to FMS already with the possibility of up to $1.8 billion being committed before the end of the year.
And here I'd like to say that I appreciate the attention that the chairman and other members of this committee have recently given to speeding up the FMS process for Iraq.
To summarize, the security situation in Iraq is improving and Iraqi elements are slowly taking on more of the responsibility for protecting their citizens. Innumerable challenges lie ahead. However, coalition and Iraqi security forces have made progress toward achieving sustainable security. As a result, the United States will be in a position to reduce its forces in Iraq in the months ahead.
Two weeks ago, I provided recommendations for the way ahead in Iraq to the members of my chain of command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The essence of the approach I recommended is captured in its title: Security While Transitioning, From Leading to Partnering to Overwatch.
This approach seeks to build on the security improvements our troopers and our Iraqi counterparts have achieved in recent months. It reflects recognition of the importance of securing the population and the imperative of transitioning responsibilities to Iraqi institutions and Iraqi forces as quickly as possible, but without rushing to failure.
It includes substantial support for the continuing development of Iraqi security forces. It also stresses the need to continue the counterinsurgency strategy that we have been employing, but with Iraqis gradually shouldering more of the load.
And it highlights the importance of regional and global diplomatic approaches.
Finally, in recognition of the fact that this war is not only being fought on the ground in Iraq, but also in cyberspace, it also notes the need to contest the enemy's growing use of that important medium to spread extremism.
The recommendations I have provided were informed by operational and strategic considerations. The operational considerations include recognition that military aspects of the surge have achieved progress and generated momentum. Iraqi security forces have been slowly shouldering more of the security burden in Iraq. A mission focus on either population security or transition alone will not be adequate to achieve our objectives.
Success against Al Qaida Iraq and Iranian-supported militia extremists requires conventional forces as well as special operations forces. And the security in local political situations will enable us to draw down the surge forces.
My recommendations also took into account a number of strategic considerations -- that political progress will only take place if sufficient security exists.
Long-term U.S. ground force viability will benefit from force reductions as the surge runs its course.
Regional, global and cyberspace initiatives are critical to success. And Iraqi leaders, understandably, want to assume greater sovereignty in their country, although, as they recently announced, they do desire a continued presence of coalition forces in Iraq in 2008 under a new U.N. Security Council Resolution. And, following that, they want to negotiate a long-term security agreement with United States and other nations.
Based on these considerations and having worked the battlefield geometry with Lieutenant General Ray Odierno to ensure that we retain and build on the gains for which our troopers have fought. I have recommended a draw down of the surge forces from Iraq. In fact, later this month, the Marine expeditionary deployed as part of the surge will depart Iraq.
Beyond that, if my recommendations are approved, this will be followed by the withdrawal of a brigade combat team without replacement in mid-December, and the further redeployment without replacement of four other brigade combat teams and the two surge Marine battalions in the first months of 2008, until we reach the pre- surge level of 15 brigade combat teams by mid-July 2008.
Force reductions will continue beyond the pre-surge levels of brigade combat teams that we will reach by mid-July 2008. In my professional judgment, however, it would be premature to make recommendations on the pace of such reductions at this time.
In fact, our experience in Iraq has repeatedly shown that projecting too far into the future is not just difficult, it can be misleading and even hazardous. In view of this, I do not believe it is reasonable to have an adequate appreciation for the pace of further reductions and mission adjustments beyond the summer of 2008, until about mid-March of next year.
We will, no later than that time, consider factors similar to those on which I based the current recommendations. Having by then, of course, a better feel for the security situation, the improvements and the capabilities of our Iraqi counterparts, and the enemy situation.
This final chart captures the recommendations I have described, showing the recommended reduction of brigade combat teams as the surge runs its course, and illustrating the concept of our units adjusting their missions and transitioning responsibilities to Iraqis as the situation in Iraqi capabilities permit.
It also reflects the no-later-than-date for recommendations on force adjustments beyond next summer, and it provides a possible approach we have considered for the future force-structure and mission set in Iraq over time.
In describing the recommendations I have made, I should note, again, that, like Ambassador Crocker, I believe Iraq's problems will require a long-term effort. There are no easy answers or quick solutions. And though we both believe this effort can succeed, it will take time. Our assessments underscore, in fact, the importance of recognizing that a premature draw down of forces would likely have devastating consequences.
That assessment is supported by the findings of a 16 August Defense Intelligence Agency report on the implications of a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
Summarizing it in an unclassified fashion, it concludes that a rapid withdrawal would result in the further release of the strong centrifugal forces in Iraq and produce a number of dangerous results, including the high risk of disintegration of the Iraqi security forces, rapid deterioration of local security initiatives, Al Qaida-Iraq regaining lost ground and freedom of maneuver, a marked increase violence and further ethno-sectarian displacement and refugee flows, alliances of convenience by Iraqi groups with internal and external forces to gain advantage over their rivals, and exacerbation of already challenging regional dynamics, especially with respect to Iran.
Lieutenant General Odierno and I share this assessment and believe that the best way to secure our national interests and avoid an unfavorable outcome in Iraq is to continue to focus our operations on securing the Iraqi people while targeting terrorist groups and militia extremists and, as quickly as conditions are met, transitioning security tasks to Iraqi elements.
Before closing, I want to thank you and your colleagues for your support of our men and women in uniform in Iraq. The soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen with whom I'm honored to serve are the best equipped and very likely the most professional force in our nation's history.
All of us appreciate what you have done to ensure that these great troopers have had what they have needed to accomplish their mission, just as we appreciate what you have done to take care of their families, as they, too, have made significant sacrifices in recent years.
The advances you have underwritten in weapons systems and individual equipment, ammunitions, and command, control and communication systems, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, and vehicles and counter IED systems and programs, and in manned and unmanned aircraft have proven invaluable in Iraq.
Additionally, your funding of the Commanders Emergency Response program has given our leaders a critical tool with which to prosecute the counterinsurgency campaign.
Finally, we appreciate as well your funding of our new detention programs and rule of law initiatives in Iraq.
In closing, it remains an enormous privilege to soldier again in Iraq with America's new greatest generation. Our country's men and women in uniform have done a magnificent job in the most complex and challenging environment imaginable. All Americans should be very proud of their sons and daughters serving in Iraq today.
Thank you very much.
LEVIN: Thank you very much, General.
U.S. AMBASSADOR RYAN CROCKER : Mr. Chairman, since I have circulated my statement and delivered it in previous hearings, in the interest of the committee's time, if it is agreeable to you, I would be prepared to go straight to questions.
LEVIN: It's your call, Ambassador.
General Petraeus, General Jones and his very distinguished commission, a very experienced independent commission, said that political reconciliation is the key to ending sectarian violence in Iraq.
Do you agree?
PETRAEUS: I do. Yes, sir.
LEVIN: The commission also said that Iraqi armed forces -- excuse me for interrupting myself here -- I will say that we will have an eight-minute first round of questions. This is for my colleagues, our colleagues, I have talked to Senator McCain about it. We have a huge -- I think everyone is probably here today so we'd all like more time, but we'll limit the first round to eight minutes.
General, let me ask you another question about the independent commission, which was headed by General Jones. They also wrote that the Iraqi armed forces are capable of assuming greater responsibility for the internal security of Iraq.
Do you agree with that?
PETRAEUS: I do. I would want to talk about which units, but that is correct.
LEVIN: Now, in your testimony, your charts indicate there are approximately 95 of the Iraqi battalions -- army, police, and special operation forces battalions -- that are capable of taking the lead in operations, albeit with some coalition support.
Is that correct?
PETRAEUS: That is correct. Yes, sir.
LEVIN: And I believe from our own statistics given to us by the Department of Defense under Section 9010, that 89 of those battalions are in the army -- in the Iraqi army.
Does that sound about right, 89 or 90?
PETRAEUS: That sounds about right. I don't know if they have the special ops elements in that.
LEVIN: I think they are.
PETRAEUS: But that's about right, yes, sir.
LEVIN: I think they are. I think they are. That includes special ops.
PETRAEUS: Yes, sir.
LEVIN: Now, after talking with soldiers during a recent visit to Iraq, it was my impression that many of the Iraqi units that have the capability to be in the lead are not yet in the lead.
From their testimony last week, I believe that General Jones and Joulwan, speaking for that independent commission, agree that there are many Iraqi units that have that capability of being in the lead, again with support from the coalition, that are not yet in the lead. Would you agree with that?
PETRAEUS: Yes, sir, I think I would, right.
LEVIN: Can you tell us about how many of the 89 capable units, Iraqi units that are capable of taking the lead with the support of the coalition are not yet in the lead?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I cannot. If I could take that for the record?
LEVIN: It's a very important point...
PETRAEUS: Yes, sir.
... obviously for those of us who believe that we have got to begin to reduce our forces and to turn over responsibility to the Iraqis, both politically but also militarily, where they have that capability that is still not being used. And I would appreciate that, if you would promptly get us that number for the record.
General, British troops withdrew from Basra to a position outside of the city. Now, of the 40,000 British troops that were deployed to Iraq after the invasion, only 5,500 remain and they are, again, posted outside of the city of Basra.
LEVIN: Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the move part of a British strategy to shift from combat to an over-watch role. And the role of securing the four provinces in the region then is left to the Iraqi security forces.
Did you agree with the British decision to redeploy their troops out of Basra?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I did. And they had already withdrawn from Maysan province. That was transitioned to provincial Iraqi control some months ago. The Australian forces are in one of the other four provinces. Dhi Qar and Muthanna province transitioned to provincial Iraqi control, actually, last year.
So what it really is, is really transitioning the security of the palace in Basra City to Iraqi elements that were trained and equipped and certified for that.
LEVIN: Did you agree with the reduction in British troops?
PETRAEUS: I did, yes, sir.
LEVIN: General, there's a lengthy article in last Sunday's New York Times that assessed the surge. I don't know if you've had a chance to read that article, or...
PETRAEUS: I have not. No, sir.
LEVIN: The article was the result of work of 20 reporters who repeatedly visited 20 neighborhoods in Baghdad. They found that the residents had been killed or driven away from their homes in Baghdad.
More than 35,000 Iraqi have left their homes since the surge began, that in nearly all the Shiite-dominated areas of Baghdad, the Mahdi army has expanded and deepened its control of daily life.
In Sadr City, the residents say the Mahdi militants control neighborhood security, gas stations, water supplies and real estate.
In New Baghdad, residents say the market is now controlled by the Mahdi army.
In Sadiya (ph), once middle-class and mixed and relatively peaceful, crackdowns in nearby Sunni areas led to an influx of hardline Sunni insurgents.
LEVIN: The Shiites turned to their own militias, principally the Mahdi Army. Most residents have left -- fleeing death squads from both sides.
One of the most alarming findings of the article is that Sunnis and Shiites fear each other at the top levels of the government, and in the sweltering neighborhoods of Baghdad, hatreds are festering, not healing.
Do you have any reaction to that summary? It's a long article, but you didn't mention any specifics about the problems. I'm just wondering whether anything I read strikes you as being erroneous.
PETRAEUS: No. There are certainly all of those situations to be found in Baghdad, Mr. Chairman.
LEVIN: All right.
Now, Ambassador Crocker, in your opening statement for the record, you provided a positive judgment on the Iraqi political leaders, including Prime Minister Maliki. Yet, according to Joe Klein in an article in the September 3rd edition of Time magazine, you told him that the fall of the Maliki government, when it happens, might be a good thing.
Were you accurately quoted?
CROCKER: What I have said when I have been asked that question, and it's come up several times, is that in Iraq now, with its democratically elected parliament, questions about the -- about any government, the Maliki government or any other are going to be determined by the Iraqi people.
There is a mechanism for voting no-confidence in their parliamentary system. There are several ways they can do that. And that's up to them.
LEVIN: Well, I think we all agree with that, but that's not my question.
My question is: Were you accurately quoted when you were quoted as saying that it might be a good thing if the Maliki government falls? Was that an accurate quote? That's my question.
PETRAEUS: And my answer is that when I have been asked that question I respond in the manner that I've just laid out for you.
I do not...
LEVIN: Are you saying then that you did not say that when it happens it might be a good thing?
PETRAEUS: I do not recall saying that, no sir.
LEVIN: Now, Mr. Ambassador, the New York Times, reported that Prime Minister Maliki flew to Najaf to meet with Grand Ayatollah Sistani on September 5th, two days after Mr. Maliki met with the president in western Iraq. Mr. Maliki is quoted as having stated, quote, I raised before Ayatollah Sistani my viewpoints to form a government of technocrats.
Did you discuss that with Mr. Maliki, that conversation that he had with Ayatollah Sistani?
CROCKER: I did not discuss that conversation because I was on my way back here that night. I have had discussions with the prime minister on the questions of how the government functions, the problems in governmental functioning. There's a lot of frustration over that, on our side, of course, and on the part of Iraqis, including the prime minister himself. And he has previously spoken of one alternative being the formation of a technocratic government.
LEVIN: Thank you. My time is up.
MCCAIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, again thank you.
General Petraeus, you have stated that Iraq is now the central front on the war on terror. Is that a correct quote?
PETRAEUS: That is correct, sir.
MCCAIN: Why is that?
PETRAEUS: It is based on my conversations with the director of CIA and Lieutenant General McChrystal, the Joint Special Operations Command commander, who have assessed that it is the central front for Al Qaida.
PETRAEUS: And they have based that on communications and other things. It is possible that the loss of momentum, to some degree, in Iraq by Al Qaida may be shifting, then. We've actually been looking at that to see if there are indicators of a reduction in support for Al Qaida-Iraq, or not. And there is not something conclusive yet, but it is certainly something that we are looking at very hard.
MCCAIN: Ambassador Crocker, in my statement, I mention, and I'm sure you heard the Iranian president state it, Soon we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we're prepared to fill the gap.
Do you hear that comment?
CROCKER: I didn't -- I did hear that comment, yes sir.
MCCAIN: And your assumption -- and your conclusion from that?
CROCKER: Well, at least the president of Iran has one virtue of being honest, because that is already, I think, very apparent to those of us in Iraq as Iran's intention.
MCCAIN: General Petraeus, there's -- it's astonishing, the number of things that people come up with, but one of the latest statements is that the surge had nothing to do with Anbar province and the rather stunning success we've had there.
How do you respond to that?
PETRAEUS: Well, the success in Anbar province, correctly, is a political success. But it is a political success that has been enabled, very much, by our forces who have been enabled by having additional forces in Anbar province. The tribes, indeed, stood up, started outside Ramadi last October or so. Colonel McFarland, the Army, with some great Marine forces and Army forces, in Ramadi made the decision to back him. That began to build some momentum, got some Iraqis trained. And, all of a sudden by mid-March, they felt that they could go ahead and launch...
MCCAIN: Could it have happened without the surge?
PETRAEUS: It would not have happened as quickly without the surge. And I don't know whether we could have capitalized on it the way that we have without the surge.
MCCAIN: Ambassador Crocker, there's now a lot of conversation about a, quote, soft partition of Iraq, and that Baghdad is already partitioned and the Kurds are doing things locally and others. What's your -- what is your response to a proposal for a, quote, soft partition of Iraq ?
CROCKER: Iraqis have got to figure out what their state will look like in the future.
One of the promising indicators we're seeing right now is in fact a discussion among all Iraqis, including Sunnis, about a decentralized federal system.
These will be their choices to make. That kind of outcome, which is provided for in the constitution, is not soft partition. It's not partition of any form.
Partition, in my view, is not a viable outcome for the situation in Iraq. Baghdad, in spite of all of the violence it has seen and all of the population displacements, remains a very mixed city, Sunnis and Shia together. Any notion that that city of over 5 million people can be neatly divided up or painlessly cleansed of a huge number of people is just incorrect.
Some argue that ethnically cleansing has already taken place.
CROCKER: There clearly has been substantial displacement, mainly of Sunnis, but also of Shia. And, you know, to be -- to be candid, there is still some of that going on, as the New York Times article suggests. That is going to be one of the challenges ahead for the Iraqis and for us in support...
MCCAIN: Why not let it just continue?
CROCKER: Because this is occurring in its current form pushed by militias and death squads at a tremendous human cost. We've brought that down. The surge has brought that down, but it hasn't ended it.
CROCKER: To simply say this is a good thing would be I think in both practical and moral terms roughly equivalent to some of the ethnic cleansing we saw in the Balkans.
MCCAIN: General Petraeus, we agree that the police, or the national police have been a colossal failure. What are we going to do about it? And how many people are we talking about and in the context of the overall national police force, as it is?
PETRAEUS: Senator, the -- there's no question but that certain national police elements were hijacked by sectarian interests, particularly during 2006 and became part of the problem, instead of part of the solution.
The Ministry of Interior has recognized that. This minister has taken steps. And we have supported those steps, needless to say. But it includes replacement of the overall national police commander, both division commanders, all nine of the brigade commander, and 17 of 27 battalion commanders.
In addition, there has been a retraining process for them of a month-long course where they're pulled out of the line, literally, and sent to a location southeast of Baghdad for retraining.
With some of the units, this has appeared to work. There are some others about which we still have continuing concerns.
I believe that Prime Minister Maliki himself has gotten much greater concern about militia activity in general and has publicly said now that the militias must be dissolved over time.
I am going to bring in some individuals to take a look at this together with the Ministry of Interior, in fact, shortly after I get back.
MCCAIN: There's an argument that the Sunni, the success in Anbar province because it's strictly Sunni cannot be replicated throughout Iraq.
PETRAEUS: Sir, it can't be replicated exactly except, of course, in locations that are exactly Sunni Arab.
Now, actually, there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where this has been replicated, and other areas, including Abu Ghraib, where some -- well over 1,500 men have been put on hiring orders by the ministry of interior, almost Sunni Arab, I assume. And some are former insurgents, Jaish al-Islami.
And the Iraqi government knows this. They did it with their eyes wide open because they saw that it would be better to have these individuals fighting Al Qaida, instead of...
MCCAIN: So this can...
PETRAEUS: ... being part of Al Qaida.
MCCAIN: So this can be and is being replicated throughout Iraq?
PETRAEUS: It can be replicated in a number of different locations where it's needed to be replicated.
The truth is, in some areas, you have sufficient security forces, now, to combat -- and it's not just Al Qaida. It's also, of course, militia extremists.
But if you look at the province of Dhi Qar, for example, one of the four provinces for which the British are responsible, in that province, there's a pretty strong Iraqi element. And each time the militia has gotten out of hand, that element has been able to deal with it, on some occasions, with some help from a special forces team that is in that area and that can provide some close air support, as required.
MCCAIN: Ambassador Crocker, what is your degree of confidence that the Maliki government will begin to do the things that we've been asking them to do for a long time?
CROCKER: My level of confidence is under control.
We saw, in the course of the summer, a serious effort, on the part of Prime Minister Maliki and other leaders, to try to work out some of the national-level issues among them.
And that led to a communique, on the 26th of August, in which they announced agreement, in principle, on two piece of legislation, de-Baathification reform and provincial powers; committed themselves to convening regularly to deal with issues of strategic significance to the nation, and also announced agreement on issues relating to detainees and armed groups.
These are modest achievements. But I nonetheless find them somewhat encouraging, as an indication of, certainly, the intention of the leaders of the three main communities to work together and their ability to produce some results.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I thank the witnesses for their service.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator McCain.
SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY, D-MASS.: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And I thank General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, as others do, for your service.
Ambassador Crocker, you've given us a rather ominous prediction when you say that your level of confidence, in terms of the political resolution decision, reconciliation is -- you used the words under control.
I think, as we've heard from General Petraeus, we've heard from General Jones, we've heard from the president of the United States, that military action and political reconciliation have to go hand in hand.
KENNEDY: You'd agree with that, would you not?
CROCKER: Senator, I would agree that political reconciliation has to be the end state. But I would not, myself, suggest that they go hand in hand.
KENNEDY: All right.
CROCKER: I think the military surge can create the conditions under which political reconciliation is possible.
KENNEDY: All right. Well, they can create the conditions.
The real issue and question is: With the surge, are those conditions being created?
General Petraeus pointed out in his counterinsurgency statement and book published last December the tactical actions that must be linked not only to strategic and operational military objectives but also to the host nation's essential political goals. Without those connections, lives and resources may be wasted without real gain. Without those connections, military and political, lives and resources may be wasted for no real gain.
And so, General Petraeus, in looking at the surge and being mindful of the GAO report, the NIE report, that point out that the most important benchmarks that are essential to achieve national reconciliation, end the violence, have not been met and are not likely to be met any time soon: How do we have any real confidence that these political judgments are going to be made by the Iraqi political leadership? The Iraqi political leadership, they're the ones that are going to have to make the judgments on political reconciliation.
We've had the surge now. We've read the GAO report.
PETRAEUS: That's right.
KENNEDY: We know what President Bush has said that, if the benchmarks have not been achieved, he's going to hold the Iraqis accountable. We see no evidence of that.
I'd suggest that the Iraqi political leadership is holding hostage American service men and women in Iraq. If they are not going to move, if they are not going to make judgments, if they are not going to make a decision, what I hear from you is that the American commitment is going to be open-ended. It's going to be open- ended into the future. And I'm not sure that the American people are willing to buy into that.
PETRAEUS: Senator, what gives me some confidence is actions beyond those of the inability to gain agreement on the benchmark legislation. An example is the fact that although there has not been agreement on the oil revenue-sharing law, although they have actually sent it forward -- I believe is the latest status -- they have been, in fact, sharing oil revenue; in fact, giving provinces budgets that are commensurate with what they likely will be given if this law were passed.
Similarly, in terms of there's no general amnesty law, but there is, essentially, conditional immunity, that Prime Minister Maliki, through the National Reconciliation Committee, has fostered in reaching out to these groups that have raised their hand to oppose Al Qaida and supporting them by putting them through training and on the pay roll of Ministries of Interior, Ministries of Defense.
KENNEDY: Well, just to remind ourselves, the NIE, which I think most of us have had the opportunity to read, said the political reconciliation, I think they used the word elusive, the General Accounting Office, the establishment to benchmarks, which are basically benchmarks by the present administration, the Bush administrations, have not been effectively achieved and accomplished.
We hear now that Ambassador Crocker says that he has called the idea of political reconciliation, he is keeping under control his degree of enthusiasm or interest or belief that that's going to happen.
And we have to know why we should believe that the Maliki government or the politicians in Baghdad are going to make the tough judgments and decisions that are going to provide the national reconciliation and the political stability of that country which, as you pointed out in your book, says it's absolutely essential if we're going to end violence and have a country that's going to have some degree of independence.
PETRAEUS: Senator, I described, a few minutes ago, the efforts that Prime Minister Maliki and other members of the leadership made in the course of the summer that does give me some encouragement, both of their resolve and, to a certain degree, their ability to get things done. There are other indications.
KENNEDY: Well, they're not in the GAO report. My time is just going out. General, could I ask one -- if I could ask you -- on your last chart that you have over here -- this is the last chart?
PETRAEUS: Yes, sir.
KENNEDY: It shows the gradual reduction of personnel -- American personnel over the period. These are the number of the brigades that are going down. These -- has it eventually flattening out -- virtually nothing, that's the chart over here.
What is the timeline between these various bars that we have in this chart that's on this -- on the chart that you have over here and that you've distributed here?
PETRAEUS: Senator, as I mention in my testimony, the next decision for my recommendations, at least, it would be in mid-March, which would be to recommend the subsequent drawdown -- the pace of the subsequent draw down beyond that that we would reach when we hit the 15 brigade combat team. And we would continue to do that as we go along.
KENNEDY: So we shouldn't conclude, we shouldn't draw any conclusions from that chart over there on the phasing down, in terms of the American troops, what those bars mean and when the years will come out. Do you have any estimate for us?
PETRAEUS: I cannot offer you that. What that does represent is our thinking on conceptually how we would adjust our mission set and also the numbers of brigade combat teams over time. And, again, the over time, my best professional military advice is that, again, I have to do that as we get closer to each of those times.
KENNEDY: My time is up. Thank you very much.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Kennedy.
SEN. JOHN W. WARNER, R-VA.: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to join all others in saying that I have felt your appearances, which I followed very carefully, I was in attendance at the House yesterday, have been very productive. They're been forceful statements. They've been objective statements and I think very credible statements. And I commend you for this public service that each of you are performing.
This is a critical time in our contemporary history of this country. And we're on the threshold of a very important message that our president will deliver regarding the forward strategy. He'll deliver that presumably in the coming few days.
General Petraeus, I've followed with great interest your career and I've gotten to know you quite well, and I value our professional association.
But you wrote a letter to your troops, says as follows: Many of us had hoped this summer would be a time of tangible political process at the national level as well. One of the justifications for the surge after all was that it would help create the space for Iraqi leaders to tackle the tough questions and agree on key pieces of national reconciliation legislation.
You concluded with this simple sentence: It has not worked out as we had hoped.
On what facts did you predicate that hope that you had?
PETRAEUS: Well, sir, I guess on the projections that were made by in many cases those who came before us. There were plans laid out of when certain pieces of legislation would be dealt with and so forth. And the plain and simple fact is that they were not.
PETRAEUS: And I needed to level with our troops and tell them that that was the case.
WARNER: Good. Well, let me go on, quickly.
You value intelligence as a military man?
PETRAEUS: Yes, sir.
WARNER: We have, I think, a very fine system of intelligence now. Listen to what they said in January of 2007 with the NIE -- and I quote from the NIE: Even if violence is diminished, given the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene, Iraqi leaders will be hard pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation. Now, in January, there was a very positive message to all, including you.
Now you come to August of this year. The NIE assesses that broadly accepted political compromises required for sustained security, long-term political process and economic development are unlikely to emerge unless there is a fundamental shift in the factors driving Iraqi political and security.
And the NIE went on to say, quote, that the Iraqi government will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months. How has this intelligence reports, which I'm sure you respect...
PETRAEUS: I do.
WARNER: How has this shaped your message to Congress and your advice you're now giving the president of the United States?
PETRAEUS: For one, it has made it realistic. And, as I have mentioned to the other committees, I am not a pessimist or an optimist at this point, I am a realist about Iraq, and Iraq is hard.
What gives, again, some hope is the willingness of Prime Minister Maliki -- although it's difficult for him to cobble together all the different elements that are required to agree on legislation, but he has given direction, the formation of the National Reconciliation Committee that works with the engagement cell that the ambassador and I have created, a British two-star and the senator diplomat, to try to embrace and facilitate these local initiatives connected to the national government.
PETRAEUS: And that has been a positive...
WARNER: General, I have to tell you my own personal view is that I think the local activities of what they call bottom-up reconciliation are just coming into being. I mean, it's just come into the lexicon, the debates, that we've had in these five years we've never seen before. It's a little too early, I think, to put much credit on them.
But let's think for the future positively. We've got to have bottom-up -- I mean, top-down not bottom-up reconciliation to meet the maxims that we've operated on and witnesses at that table have said for years, there is no military solution for this. It's got to be a political reconciliation to have a unity government.
That brings you up, Mr. Ambassador. Again, you're giving advice to the president. And the president's message is going to take this debate as it should from the halls of the Congress into every city, village and town and crossroads in this country -- into most of the capitals of the world, and most particularly in the Middle East.
Credibility of the United States is on the line. And we've got to help the president, all of us, in my judgment, to get it right.
I don't feel that this current status of the Iraqi government -- and I'm not going to use all of the adjectives; dysfunctional. It's all been laid out, very carefully, by each of you over these days.
But in January, the president, in that January 10th message, and I've read and reread it many times, it is clear that that reconciliation was a concept. It was a building block to justify going forward with the surge.
I do not think that the forward strategy that will be announced for the president in a matter of days, can once again use the concept of top-down reconciliation as a building block for that strategy he will announce to our nation.
Do you agree or disagree with me?
CROCKER: Sir, as you and others of your colleagues have remarked, as we have said, national reconciliation, political reconciliation is ultimately what success will be all about in Iraq, if it's achieved.
So I think, whether it is top-down or bottom-up or -- which is actually the case, both -- that remains critically important.
I'd make just a couple of quick points.
CROCKER: First, as General Petraeus said, Iraq is hard, and reconciliation is hard, particularly when you're looking at it against a backdrop of the levels of violence the country has experienced over the last year and a half.
WARNER: Simply, do you think it's going to be a part of the fundamental factual basis of support for the new strategy, for betting on it happening at some point in time?
CROCKER: I think that the essence of success in Iraq, for Iraqis, as well as for our own goals, centers around a successful national reconciliation process that is going to have both bottom-up and top-down elements.
WARNER: That's what's been said at this table for a long time, sir. And I respect you. It hasn't happened.
I want to ask one last question to the general.
Again, my respect for you and how I've come to know you, you feel very, very deeply, every single soldier, airman, Marine, sailor that you have under your command. And I think back about George Marshall in World War II when he was faced with decisions. In every respect you face the same tough decisions that he and Eisenhower and others faced in that period.
And he said in his diary, I was very careful to send to President Roosevelt every few days a statement of our casualties. I tried to keep before him all the time the casualty results, because you get hardened to these things, and yet you have to be very careful to keep them always in the forefront of your mind. End quote.
I'm confident that you do that. And you're advising our president now on a strategy. We don't know what it'll be. But I hope that if in any way you disagree that you will so advise him.
And secondly I hope in the recesses of your heart that you know that strategy will continue the casualties, stress on our forces, stress on military families, stress on all Americans.
Are you able to say at this time if we continue what you have laid before the Congress here as a strategy, do you feel that that is making America safer?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I believe that this is indeed the best course of action to achieve our objectives in Iraq.
WARNER: Does that make America safer?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I don't know, actually. I have not sat down and sorted out in my own mind. What I have focused on and been riveted on is how to accomplish the mission of the Multi-National Force-Iraq.
I have not stepped back to look at -- and you've heard, with other committees, in fact, you know, what is the impact on -- I've certainly taken into account the impact on the military. The strain on our ground forces, in particular, has very much been a factor in my recommendations.
But I have tried to focus on doing what I think a commander is supposed to do, which is to determine the best recommendations to achieve the objectives of the policy from which his mission is derived. And that is what I have sought to do, sir.
WARNER: Well, once the president makes his statement, I hope you do consider it very carefully, as I know you will.
I thank the chair, at this...
LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Warner.
SEN. ROBERT C. BYRD, D-W.VA.: General, a lot of your testimony has focused on Al Qaida in Iraq, even though the underlying problem in Iraq is a sectarian conflict that stems back over 1,000 years.
I don't think it's a coincidence that this important hearing is taking place on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. This seems to be another attempt to link, in the mind of the confused public, the war in Iraq to the attacks perpetrated on us on 9/11 by Al-Qaida.
Is this just a big sales job?
Please answer this clearly and succinctly so that the American people can understand. Is there, and was there, any connection between the attacks of September 11, 2001, and Iraq?
CROCKER: Not that I am aware of, Senator.
BYRD: General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, it's getting to be like the change of seasons around here. Every few months, someone from the administration comes up and says, Just give us six or 12 more months, and things will look better.
The argument for the surge back in January was that military success would create space for political progress. That didn't work. Now the new buzzword is bottom-up.
You've talked about military success, but by the president's own reckoning, that success is meaningless without political reconciliation. Are six months or 12 months really going to make a difference on the big questions? Why should we keep giving you more and more time? Why? Why should we keep giving you more and more time?
CROCKER: I think there are a couple of things that we have to keep very much in our minds here.
First, what are we seeing in Iraq on the ground? General Petraeus has talked about the developments in the security situation.
On the political level, we are seeing some signs of encouragement, both at the national level -- I talked about what the leaders announced in August. We're also seeing something we hadn't seen before, which is efforts to link bottom-up developments such as those taking place in Anbar to the central government.
Just before I came back to Washington, for example, the top leaders of the central government in Baghdad, the two vice presidents and the deputy prime minister -- that's a Sunni, a Shia and a Kurd -- went out to Ramadi to announce that the central government was increasing the budget for the province of Anbar by $70 million for 2007 and was also providing $50 million in compensation for losses suffered in Anbar in the fight against Al Qaida.
CROCKER: In addition to the monetary amounts, I think this was important, again, as a signal that the central government is engaged with Anbar and is working to cement relations with this province as Anbar takes it's own steps to deal with Al Qaida and establish security.
So the answer I would give is that we are seeing some encouraging signs out there both at the provincial level, at the federal level, and between the two. I don't want to overstate what's going on. But I think it is certainly something that is encouraging me.
BYRD: General Petraeus, you've touted success in Anbar province. Just a few months ago, the tribes in Anbar providence were shooting and killing Americans.
Recently they decided they disliked the terrorist there more than they dislike Americans, so they're cooperating with us, for the time being, while we give them money and arms. This recalls in my mind our policy in the 1980's in Afghanistan of arming the Taliban to fight the Soviet Union. We all know how that short-term policy hurt our long- term interest.
What guarantee can you give us that the tribes in Anbar are not going to turn around and use the guns we gave them against our troops once they feel we no longer serve their interest?
Isn't that a short-sighted policy?
PETRAEUS: Senator, first of all, we are not arming the tribes. We have not provided weapons to them.
What we did initially is basically give a thumbs up when they asked if it would be OK if they pointed the weapons they did have, they were already well-enough armed, at Al Qaida because they had come to reject the Taliban like ideology and barbarity of Al Qaida in the Euphrates River Valley.
And at this point, their salaries in Anbar Province, of the vast majority of these individuals are being paid by the central Iraqi government because they have been picked up as members, have either joined the army or joined local police forces up and down the Euphrates River Valley.
So, there is a connection to a national chain of command and to a national salary structure that does give considerable leverage to the national government over those individuals. It's very significant, again, that they have taken on Al Qaida, because although I have not sought to connect Al Qaida with 9/11 -- Al Qaida Iraq with 9/11 in any respect, Al Qaida is very much part of the sectarian violence.
They are really the most barbaric and lethal accelerant on the Sunni-Arab side and within Baghdad, in particular, the element that has -- had been trying to carry out the displacement of Shia, until, in fact, our forces have increasingly dealt with them there. There's still work to be done in those neighborhoods against Al Qaeda, and certainly very much against Shia militia as well.
BYRD: Ambassador Crocker, we're hearing that political reconciliation can't take place without security. But there will be no security without political reconciliation. This circular dilemma sounds a lot like the dog chasing his tail. A breeder would tell you that this is not the puppy to pick. Don't pick that one.
I'm not looking for an explanation about satisfactory progress. I want to know when Iraq will step up to its responsibilities as have so many of our servicemen and women, and what you're doing to convey to the Iraqis that there is an urgency for them to act now.
When can we expect to see the benchmarks? Can the charts report on benchmarks, originally proposed by the Iraqis themselves, completely achieved?
PETRAEUS: Senator, the benchmark process has been deeply frustrating, certainly to us. It's been frustrating to a lot of Iraqis. At the same time, I think we've got to maintain a certain flexibility in our approach and note that, in some respects, we're seeing action on the objectives of the benchmarks without actual national legislation.
CROCKER: We've mentioned, for example, revenue sharing taking place without a revenue-sharing law. And it's being done on a reasonably equitable basis to all of Iraq's provinces. That's all the oil revenue that's being shared.
De-Baathification reform. There is not yet legislation in place, yet the government has reached out to a number of former military officers, many of whom were members of the Baath Party, to offer them reinstatement in the service, to offer them pensions, or to offer them the choice of other public sector employment.
So that is indeed progress on reconciliation without achieving the national benchmark.
Similarly on amnesty, as General Petraeus mentioned, the fact that the government of Iraq was prepared to bring 1,700 young men from the Abu Ghraib area just west of Baghdad into the police force, even though some of those individuals had been involved with Sunni insurgent groups in the past, is, if not a general amnesty, it's clearly a conditional immunity.
So while I certainly cannot tell you when Iraq will achieve these benchmarks formally, I can tell you that we're seeing some interesting progress on the objectives behind the benchmarks, which is reconciliation.
BYRD: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.
Thank you, General Petraeus.
LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Byrd.
SEN. JAMES M. INHOFE, R-OKLA.: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Well, first of all, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, having been over and visited with you on the ground over there on a couple of occasions, I have to say here publicly that you two are the right people at the right time.
I listened to your testimony, General Petraeus. And I'm not sure why I did. I knew pretty much what you were going to say when you came here because these are things that we experienced, those of us who have been over there, particularly have been over there recently.
You talked about Ramadi. There's no question that success is there. Just no one would have believed a year ago when they declared that that very likely was going to be the terrorist capital of the world. In Fallujah, as we all watched with great anxiety, with the door-to-door Marine operations. And now Fallujah is secure, just like Ramadi is, but the interesting thing is, it's secured by the Iraqi security forces as opposed to ours.
You talked about Patrol Base Murray (ph), south of Baghdad, where they're doing things, the neighborhood programs that are providing for their own security, the volunteers that are there on the ground.
We watched these programs, with the concerned citizens programs take place in Anbar province. Now it's reaching some of the other areas. So the successes are not confined to Anbar province.
The citizens who go out and mark the undetonated IEDs, they're taking a risk. But this is something that wasn't happening just a few months -- well, it wasn't happening before the surge.
What's happening in the mosques is just really remarkable, that while the imams, the clerics and the mosque have been giving their reports in anti-American -- well, I think we had said that 85 percent of the messages were anti-American, and we haven't really had anti- American messages now since about April.
Now, that's having, I think, a huge effect on the people over there and the reason we're getting so much of the cooperation that we weren't getting before.
Joint security stations, even a very critical report said that we're almost to the anticipated number of 34. We have 32 now. And when you talk to the troops and the Iraqi troops about the relationships that are being developed, it's a huge success story.
Ambassador Crocker, you talked about some of the economy victories that were there. You talked about the markets, about the kids, and the playgrounds, and these things. Some of us have been there and gone through the markets and so we know that those successes are very real.
And I have to say that -- to apologize to the two of you for what you've had to undergo. The move on.org was bad enough, but I think we know what's behind that. But when my old friend, Tom Lantos, came out and says, We cannot take any of this administration's assertions about Iraq seriously anymore. No amounts, charts, or statistics will increase it's credibility.
I think it's appropriate for you to repeat something you're probably tired of repeating, and that is the report that you brought to us and to the American people and to Congress that you've been able to articulate in the last couple of days, just explain -- one more time, tell us the genesis of that report.
Who put it together and who's responsible for that it?
PETRAEUS: Senator, I've got a brain trust of bright guys. They wrote two drafts of it. And I took control of the electrons last week or two weeks ago and basically rewrote it and wrote that myself.
Obviously, I shared it back and forth with them, but what I delivered here today was very much, by and large, my testimony. And it certainly had not been cleared with nor even shared with anyone.
INHOFE: With the Pentagon or the White House?
PETRAEUS: With the Pentagon or Congress.
INHOFE: I appreciate that very much. You know, I say to both of you that the adversaries, those who had been opposed to the war and those who are generally opposed to this president have been very outspoken for a long period of time.
But I also notice that some of the adversaries, that once they go over there and they see firsthand what we have seen, change their minds.
I was really shocked when I saw the article in the paper by Mike O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack in the New York Times, on the 30th of July, but these are two journalists, fine people and all that, with the Brookings Institute, but they've been very critical. They came back and wrote the article, A War We Just Might Win.
I was in shock to see that. Katie Couric, has certainly been no friend of the president's or this effort, came back from actually going over visiting -- and I'm going to get this into the record.
Fallujah was one of the deadliest cities in this country, with terrible fighting. But what happened is, Al Qaida came in; the tribal leaders realized they did not want to live under a brutal Al Qaida regime, so they enlisted the help of the U.S. soldiers.
Suddenly, these former enemies had a common enemy, worked together, and now Fallujah is relatively calm. Reconstruction efforts are under way. And it is really being considered a crowning achievement.
And I can't help but think -- I would suggest that both Senator Kennedy and Senator Byrd go over there, and they may experience the same type of conversion.
Now, when the statement that was made, trying to draw a relationship, or trying not to draw a relationship between Iraq and 9/11, I think it's important to bring out the fact that there were very major terrorist training camps in Iraq in places like (inaudible) Ramadi, Samarra, Salmanpak. In Salmanpak, it was a training camp where they actually had a fuselage of a 707, training terrorists how to hijack airplanes.
There's no evidence that 9/11 -- those who performed that duty on 9/11 were trained there. But nonetheless, these were terrorist training camps.
Are there any left in Iraq now?
PETRAEUS: There are certainly areas in which Al Qaida still has local sway, if you will. But one of the big efforts during the surge has in fact been to wrest control from them of many of the areas that were formerly sanctuaries, including also Ramadi, Baqouba, Arab Jabour, a number of other neighborhoods in Baghdad and so forth.
INHOFE: But the point I wanted to make, and wanted to get into the record is that there are training camps that were there, most of which are not there anymore.
There's been a lot of discussion about the various cut-and-run resolutions, and what would happen if we precipitously left.
And we have a lot of people we can quote. But one that has not been in the record so far was Ahmadinejad, when he said, in a press conference in Tehran, just a matter of a few days ago -- he said, Soon -- believing that we might pull out, he said, Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region.
Of course, we are prepared to fill that gap.
Ambassador Crocker, do you think they'd do that?
CROCKER: Sir, I think they've already shown that that is their intention. The Iranian involvement in Iraq has support for extremist militias -- training, connections to Lebanese Hezbollah, provision of munitions that are used against our force as well as the Iraqis -- are all, in my view, a pretty clear demonstration that Ahmadinejad means what he says and is already trying to implement it to the best of his ability.
INHOFE: Well, I appreciate it.
One last question, my time has just about expired.
General Petraeus, I probably wouldn't have gone quite as far as you went in terms of what you're anticipating to be a troop level in the future, because I think that's a difficult thing to do.
But in your assessment, I would like to have you respond as to what factors should be used to determine that date and the size of troop withdrawal? What kind of factors would we be looking at instead of using specific withdrawals and withdrawals and dates?
PETRAEUS: Sir, certainly, the conditions in local areas are hugely important. And it's not just the conditions of the local security forces, it's also actually local political conditions, because when you have a real sea change, as we have had in some of the Sunni areas, where they have decided to oppose Al Qaida, needless to say, the job just became quite more manageable. That's a very important factor.
I will continue to factor in the strain on our ground forces. I think that's something in a strategic sense that I do have to take into account. It is an area, in fact, in which I've looked at how can -- you know, what is the impact of this on our country.
And to come back to that, if I could, I mean, let me be very clear. I believe that if we can achieve our objectives in Iraq, that is obviously a very good thing for the United States and would make us safer. The converse, I think, is also true, depending on how it turned out.
To go on farther, again, as I said, the Iraqi security forces become of considerable importance in that area. The institutional underpinnings for them at that time become important.
And those are the key factors that we would look at as we take this forward.
INHOFE: Thank you very much.
PETRAEUS: Thank you, sir.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Inhofe.
SEN. JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN, I-CONN.: Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, General and Ambassador.
It strikes me, as I've watched your testimony over the last few days, that you left the real war in Iraq and came over onto the battlefield of the political war here in Washington about Iraq.
And I would say, on this battlefield you have gained considerable ground over the last two days. And I say so because too often on this battleground, the forces are divided according to partisan loyalties, and there's a lot of hype and spin.
You have given testimony that is thoroughly nonpartisan, nonpolitical and realistic. It's quite obvious that just today, this afternoon, that all the answers you have given have not been answers that the administration would have wanted you to give.
But you're straight-shooters. You're both professionals, a soldier and a statesman who have served your country and are serving it most admirably today. And I thank you very much for that.
I also thank you for the encouraging report that you have given. And I hope that it affects opinions here on Capitol Hill. I'm confident it will affect the opinions of a lot of people across America because of the credibility that you've gained in giving it.
I mean, you've said to us the military objectives of the surge are in large measure being met, and as a result, the forces can be reduced by 7,500 troops by the end of this year and 30,000 by about -- less than a year, by next summer, without jeopardizing, I'm quoting you, General, the security gains that we have fought so hard to achieve.
I suppose one of the things that has most surprised me over the last two days is that every member of Congress, regardless of our opinion about the way forward in Iraq, hasn't cheered when you said that, thanked you for it, because I can tell you that the 30,000 troops and their families are thrilled to hear that announcement.
And I appreciate it very much. And the best of all worlds, I'd like to think that people around here would take yes for an answer and we'd go on and look forward to your next report in the spring.
That's probably not going to happen. So I want to ask you a few questions, General, about some of the amendments and proposals that we're likely to have put before us on the floor of the Senate.
First, some may attempt to take your 7,500 by the end of the year, 30,000 by next summer, and mandate it without regard to conditions on the ground.
What would you say to that?
PETRAEUS: Well, I would be uncomfortable with that. Again, I think that we have to have our eyes wide open as we go forward with this. We are making projections about what we believe will be the case or not hopes, but they are where we think we will be. And that is the basis for our decisions.
In fact, if it can go the other way, we could even make it sooner. But, what we should do, again, is be objective about our assessments as we move along and ensure that we do not surrender a gain for which we've fought very, very hard by being locked into a timetable like that.
LIEBERMAN: I take it that your answer would be the same to a proposal that would accelerate the troop withdrawal mandate, a larger troop withdrawal sooner, perhaps switching over to a different kind of mission early next year that would be counterterrorism, training the Iraqi troops, and protecting our troops there?
PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, to do counterterrorism, as I mentioned very briefly in the statement, requires conventional, as well as all types of special operations forces and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance assets. And we found, in fact, this very fact. We have been banging away in Ramadi with our very high-end special operations forces for years.
And we did disrupt the enemy in there, we did take them down, various times, a few pegs. But it was not until courageous Marines and soldiers truly cleared Ramadi in mid-March, now augmented by these Iraqi security forces, former tribal members who joined in the fight against Al Qaida in the Euphrates River Valley, that we were able to take that sanctuary away from Al Qaida-Iraq.
The same has been true in other areas. You do have to clear the area, and that is something that is not done just by counterterrorist forces, per say, those that we normally associate with the counterterrorist mission, but by conventional forces as well.
In fact, one of the things we've worked very hard to do is to fuse the intelligence that supports all these different operations and also to coordinate and to try to achieve a synergy between the effects of these different types of assets.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you for that answer, which I think to be a negative to an earlier accelerated reduction of troops to switch the mission earlier.
I want to go to Iran. Both of you have focused on the very destructive role that Iran is playing through its Quds Force in Iraq, by most counts responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi civilians and soldiers.
Ambassador Crocker, I know you've met twice with the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad. I know that some of my colleagues and others have called for a diplomatic surge with Iran to engage in negotiations with them.
In your view, based on those two meetings, are the Iranians responding to that diplomatic initiative that you commenced with them?
CROCKER: Sir, we have seen nothing on the ground that would suggest that the Iranians are altering what they're doing in support of extremist elements that are going after our forces as well as the Iraqis.
LIEBERMAN: General, do feel that you all the authorities you need from a military point of view to deter, disrupt and respond to the Iranian attacks on our troops and Iran's efforts to destabilize Iraq?
PETRAEUS: I do, Senator, again keeping in mind that that my area of responsibility is limited to Iraq. So it does not include going into Iran.
LIEBERMAN: Let me ask you about that, because I know your military spokespeople in Baghdad have made very clear that we have evidence that Iran is taking Iraqi extremists to three training camps outside of Tehran, training them in the use of explosives, sophisticated weapons, sending them back into Iraq, where they are responsible for the murder of American soldiers.
Is it time to give you authority in pursuit of your mission in Iraq to pursue those Iranian Quds Force operations in Iranian territory in order to protect America's troops in Iraq?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I think that really the Multi-National Force-Iraq should just focus on Iraq and that any kinds of operations outside the borders of Iraq would rightly be overseen by the Central Command, the regional combatant command.
LIEBERMAN: I want to just -- my time's up. I thank you both. God bless you in your extraordinary service and we all wish you well and success.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Lieberman.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, R-ALA.: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank both of you for your service to America, your commitment executing the policies not only of the president, but of this Congress, as we voted by over three-fourths vote to authorize the actions in Iraq.
I think it's a healthy discussion. I really do. Last week, we had General Jones commission, 20 experienced people came and gave their views. We had the GAO give us their evaluation of where we are. And today you frontline officers representing the government are sharing your thoughts with us today, and we thank you for that.
SESSIONS: Ultimately, it is Congress' role to decide whether or not to fund this activity. I hope, after this discussion, we can reach a bipartisan agreement, even though, maybe, it won't be a unanimous vote.
But once an agreement is reached, I hope that we can all work together in a way that helps us achieve the decided-upon policy and does not in any way make it more difficult to achieve the policy of this nation that we'll have decided upon in this democratic fashion.
Bing West, who has been to Iraq a number of times and written extensively about it -- I believe two books recently -- said this, General Petraeus, and I think you should be complimented.
He said, The new military team has infused the effort with energy and strategic clarity and seized the initiative. In this war, the moral, psychological element outweighs the physical by 20-1.
And on the two primary battlefields, Anbar and Baghdad, I see a common characteristic, U.S. momentum.
I think that's indicated in your comments. And I just wanted to share that because some things have happened there.
General Petraeus, you have, after having two full tours in Iraq, you came back and completed writing the Department of Defense counterinsurgency manual. I see a copy of the big black -- green manual of there, that someone has.
Would you tell us some of the tactics and principles you're applying that might have been different from those before, that you think can be effective against an insurgency?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I think one of the most important initiatives has been to ensure that the idea of securing a population by living among it is one of the tactics, techniques, and procedures that we practice.
This has manifest itself in the form of the joint security stations that are combinations of Iraqi and coalition forces, jointly manning, generally, command-and-control and also, typically, some forces there as well.
PETRAEUS: Locations there in Baghdad, they are also in a number of other cities. There are also, however, patrol bases and combat outposts that have been established. Again, to ensure that our soldiers and Iraqi forces are in the neighborhoods, are in the areas.
This is -- you cannot commute to this fight. You cannot secure a population by driving through it a few times in a day. You have to be there, really, 24 by 7.
This has, in fact, had positive developments. The intelligence you get from this can actually be overwhelming, at a certain point, when they realize you are there to stay. It has worked exceedingly well in Ramadi, in Fallujah, and a number of other cities.
SESSIONS: You mention intelligence -- this is when the local people give information of value to the American or...
PETRAEUS: Yes, sir.
SESSIONS: ... Iraqi soldiers?
PETRAEUS: And, in fact, I mean, that is a big factor in the number of additional weapons caches. The locals are helping us to those. We're also -- we also have more forces on the ground. We also have more presence throughout the countryside, throughout cities, and so forth.
And particularly as the locals sense a degree of momentum, then they want to get on board and they -- they're now happy to have the mortar cache in their vegetable garden taken out as it's no longer needed. So those are the types of practices that we have sought to employ and a number of others in terms of this fusion of the intelligence.
A lot of these are evolutions. But I do think that, yes, we have made mistakes along the way. We have learned lessons very much the hard way. But I think that our institutions, the Army, the Marine Corps, the other services have made a number of changes that have helped ensure that our leaders, not only have the experience to draw on that many of them have already had in Iraq sometimes one or two tours before, but also have had a preparation for deployment, the road to deployment, as it is called, that has the Counterinsurgency Manual or a host of other field manuals that have been revised.
The detainee operations is another significant one. And then the education system for our commissioned and noncommissioned officers has been completely overhauled.
The combat training center, mission rehearsal exercises out in the desert Nevada, the central Louisiana, and Germany -- all of this -- and starting off, in fact, with a seminar on counterinsurgency as they begin the road to deployment.
So the institutions themselves have already made a lot of changes. We have a counterinsurgency center, in fact, in Iraq that General Casey started that is a superb element in all this, as well.
All leaders, instead of sitting down in Kuwait as our forces come through the port, actually are flown up to a base north of Baghdad, where they go through a week at the Counterinsurgency Center there.
In fact, I address them. General Odierno and a number of others all sit down and talk to them about the latest developments, because it does continue to evolve.
So there are a lot of these efforts to try to do what we have learned as the right thing to do in Iraq. And I think that our leaders, in particular commissioned and noncommissioned officer leaders, really do get it about this in a way that perhaps we have not in the past.
SESSIONS: I would thank you for those comments. And I guess the point of that answer is that you didn't just take 30,000 more troops and patrol more in Baghdad.
You've got a new strategy, a complex strategy that teaches an alteration in the very approach to the nature of this combat and conflict...
PETRAEUS: We are trying to employ the forces in very appropriate ways. And the truth is, in some cases they're doing what you might identified as counterterrorism, really, targeted raids. In other cases, it really is classical counterinsurgency. In some cases, it's almost peace enforcement, in others, it's nation-building.
But that is what counterinsurgency is today, and that's what we tried to capture in fact, in the counterinsurgency field manual.
SESSIONS: Well, I think that's important. There is no one area of that country that's exactly like another area.
PETRAEUS: That is correct.
SESSIONS: Each one has to be treated differently, does it not?
PETRAEUS: That is correct, sir.
SESSIONS: And you had that complexity in mind as you developed this strategy. I think it does give us a powerful belief that we can make progress.
General Petraeus, when you came before us in January before you went to Iraq, you had told me previously that no matter what happened, you would tell the Congress the truth. I asked you that, that morning, and you committed to tell the American people the truth as you see it.
Have you, to the best of your ability, told this Congress the truth about this situation in Iraq today?
PETRAEUS: I have, yes, sir.
SESSIONS: And, General Petraeus, in your opinion, is there a circumstance in which -- in your opinion is this effort in Iraq such that we cannot be successful, that we would be putting more effort in a losing cause if we continue it, or in your opinion, do we have a realistic chance to be successful in this very important endeavor?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I believe we have a realistic chance of achieving our objectives in Iraq.
SESSIONS: And I would just say, Mr. Chairman, when I asked General Jimmy Jones last week that a single member of his 20-member commission believe that our effort in Iraq was hopeless and that we should withdraw promptly, he indicated not a single one did.
So I believe the American people are concerned about that question and I value your honest answer to it. Thank you.
LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Sessions.
SEN. JACK REED, D-R.I.: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
General Petraeus, have you ever recommended or requested the extension of tours to 18 months for the accelerated deployment of Guard and Reserve forces?
PETRAEUS: I have certainly never recommended extension beyond 15 months. In fact, General Odierno and I put out a letter that said that, I mean, unless things got completely out of control, that we would not even think of extending beyond 15 months.
REED: Having done that, doesn't that virtually lock you in to a recommendation of reducing troops by 30,000 beginning in April and extending through the summer, regardless of what's happening on the ground?
PETRAEUS: It, depending -- except depending on what can be taken out of the reserves. Again, I don't know what is available in the National Guard and the Reserves. I do know that the active army, in particular, that the string does run out for the army to meet the year-back criteria.
Now, what we have done, of course, as I mentioned, Senator, is actually, in fact, to take some elements out short of their 15-month mark because of our assessment of the situation...
REED: I understand that, but -- and I think, basically, my sense is that the overriding constraint you face is not what's happening on the ground in Iraq, but the reality, unless you did recommend, request and then succeed that unless tours were extended, 30,000 troops are coming out of there beginning April of next year, regardless of the situation on the ground.
PETRAEUS: Again, certainly, the active brigade combat teams were going to come out of there. Again, I am not aware of what is available in terms of battalions, brigades or what have you...
REED: My sense is that the Reserve and National Guard forces are not available to replace this.
PETRAEUS: I think that's the case. But, again, I don't know because I have not asked.
REED: Let me go to an issue which I think is central to not only where we are, but where we're going. If that's the reversibility of the progress you've reported, with respect to the surge, I think in that context, I look at the situation in Basra, which the chairman alluded to. The British conducted Operation Sinbad for about six months. Goals very similar to the surge -- reduce the violence in Basra, the second largest city in Iraq, bring down the level of violence, prepare for redeployment of forces, and they have begun their redeployment. And yet, the situation in Basra, I think, has become deteriorated, significantly.
Is that accurate?
PETRAEUS: Actually, in the last month, it has -- the level of violence has come down fairly significantly, in part because of the -- as I mentioned, there has been a four-star general put in place there several months ago, change the police chief, and, again, reach some political accommodations among the three parties that are down there, and also did some release of some Jaish al-Mahdi detainees, as well, who are not ones, by the way, who are in league with Iran.
REED: But the presence there of Iran is quite significant in the southern part, particularly in Basra.
PETRAEUS: There is a very real concern about Iranian activity in the southern provinces and in Basra in particular, certainly.
REED: Yes, you've agreed, as you said it to the chairman, that the reduction of British forces was appropriate. And in that regard, do the current British forces have a population protection mission?
They do not. And really, Operation Sinbad was very different from our surge in the sense that it was conducted to reach some relatively short-term goals and actually, all along, intended to, in fact, come back to their bases.
PETRAEUS: They did then train, for example, the force to secure the palace over the course of the last couple of months, certified, took it over, and in fact has done an adequate job in maintaining security of that palace. There has been the stand-up of some additional Iraqi forces down there, including Iraqi special operations forces. And there are additional forces, literally as we speak, that are moving there to strengthen the position of General Mohan, the four-star general there.
REED: If the British forces are operating there with essentially a force protection mission, and you've described, in your terms, progress because of political adjustments, why can't U.S. forces begin to adopt a force protection and counterterrorism mission, nonpopulation protection mission? Or alternatively, why do certain elements in your command, American units, have a population protection mission and the British don't?
PETRAEUS: Well, it's largely because that's a Shia area and there has not been the kind of sectarian violence. There's just basically one sect. There is a pocket of Sunnis down there, but there has been general coexistence down there, by and large.
So you literally just don't have the same -- that particular challenge in Basra or in the other southern provinces. There is intra-Shia fighting that goes on, but that is something that in general the Iraqis have shown an ability to resolve in a way that they have not been able to deal with the very heightened sectarian violence, in particular, that took off in the mixed areas in the wake of the Samarra mosque.
REED: Let me return to my initial (inaudible). You've argued that lately, at least, that the progress in the south seems to be taking some hold, principally because of the nonsectarian element. Yet where you are operating and where you will reduce forces next spring, there is a significant sectarian Shia-Sunni clash. And yet you're still confident that these gains will stand up?
PETRAEUS: There are a number of areas in which we are actually doing fine in mixed areas or in which better, more accurate to say that Iraqi security forces are holding their own, are shouldering their share of the burden.
Again, not to come back to Anbar, but Anbar is one of them, certainly. And you can see -- I mean, we've actually -- not only are we going to bring the MEU home out of there and not ask for it to be replaced, but we earlier actually moved an Army battalion out of Anbar province as well to another area, in fact, where it was needed more.
But there are other locations like that -- Kirkuk, Mosul to a degree -- other locations where you can thin because of the additional, in many cases local, volunteers in many cases who have seen what has happened in Anbar province and have sought to have some of that in their areas.
REED: Any strategy has objectives and resources to gain those objectives. Including in that is time and troops. So, given the present strategy that you've adopted, how long and at what maximum strength do you anticipate American forces being in Iraq?
PETRAEUS: Well, what I can see so far with any clarity in terms of time, as I said, is to the mid-July figure of 15 brigade combat teams. We have the concepts to take us beyond that, but as I mentioned in my testimony, I can't with any confidence or clarity then project beyond that time, other than to say that we will drawdown. What I cannot say is the pace of the drawdown beyond that 15 brigade combat team structure.
REED: Ambassador Crocker, to date, the nation-building effort in Iraq has faltered dramatically. And it seems the emerging strategy is one based on tribalism. Do you think that is a long-term and appropriate approach to stabilizing the country?
CROCKER: Again, Senator, it's hard to do nation-building or reconciliation in the face of widespread sectarian violence, which has been the situation over the last 18 months.
And, as you've seen from General Petraeus' charts, it's really just been in the last few months that we've seen a significant reduction in that.
I think that nation-building, reconciliation in Iraq is going to take a lot of forms. In certain areas, the tribal dimension is key. If you're dealing with Anbar, you're dealing tribal terms.
And what is interesting and somewhat encouraging to me there is those tribal elements that have emerged have shown a considerable interest in linking up with the central government in Baghdad.
About 10 days ago, the leader of the Anbar awakening, Sheik Abdel Sittar came to Baghdad. I spent some time with him. His main purpose, though, was to meet with the prime minister and kind of establish a relationship and see what might develop out of that.
In other parts of the country, it is going to be a somewhat different story. Diyala, for example, the Baqouba area, you have tribal elements.
But, given the inter-mixture of Sunni, Shia and Kurds, unlike Anbar, which is all Sunni, you've also got a very complex sectarian element. So the dynamic is going to work differently in Diyala.
Similarly in the south, there is a tribal dimension there. It has a different form and shape than the tribal dimension in the predominantly Sunni areas. But there, too, we're seeing some signs of a desire on the part of southern Shia tribes to connect with us, to connect with their own central government in the face of violent extremism practiced by elements of Jaish al-Mahdi.
In Baghdad, the tribal dimension is less dominant -- although, in many areas still present. But we're also seeing, as General Petraeus has pointed out, in some Sunni Baghdad districts the same kind of backlash against Al Qaida, the same desire to step up and cooperate with our forces, and then to go the next step for these neighborhood watches to link up with their own central government and come under the authority of the Ministry of Interior.
So, again, it is very complex and it is going to vary from place to place. The tribes are part of it. Different areas of are going to have different dynamics.
LEVIN: Thank you. I'm now going to call on Senator Collins.
We are in the middle of a roll call. There apparently are, how many minutes left? 10 plus five left in the roll call. After Senator Collins turn of eight minutes, we will automatically stand in recess until 20 minutes to to give our witnesses a break. They have not asked for one, but we're going to provide it anyway.
So Senator Collins, and then we will stand in recess till 20 minutes to five.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-MAINE: Mr. Chairman, I will say that we've had this experience before, for those who are on the Homeland Security Committee. And I hope the vote really is going to go the full amount of time.
WARNER: I'll go down and protect you. I'll protect you.
COLLINS: I hope I'll be protected on that since I've never missed a vote.
General, Ambassador, let me begin by thanking you for your courageous service.
General, you've testified three times now that, quote, The fundamental source of conflict in Iraq is competition among ethnic and sectarian communities for power and resources.
As you stated in your confirmation hearing and reaffirmed here today, success in Iraq requires a political as well as a military component. So, let's look ahead a year from now.
If, a year from now, the Iraqi government has still failed to achieve significant political progress, what do we do?
How long should we continue to commit American troops, American lives, American treasure, if the Iraqis fail to make political gains that everyone agrees is necessary to quell the sectarian violence?
I'm going to ask both you and the ambassador this question.
PETRAEUS: Well, I would...
PETRAEUS: Senator, if we arrived at that point a year from now, that is something I would have to think very, very, very hard about. And that is my honest answer to you right now. That would be a very, very difficult recommendation to make at that point in time.
Because, on the one hand, we have very real national interests that extend beyond Iraq. They are true American national interests.
On the other hand, there clearly are limits to the blood and treasure that we can expand in an effort. And I am keenly aware of that. And as I've mentioned a couple of times, that awareness did, in fact, contribute to these recommendations.
CROCKER: Senator, what I said in my testimony yesterday and today is that it is my judgment that the cumulative trajectory of political, economic and diplomatic developments in Iraq is upward, although the slope of that line is not steep.
As we move forward, I will be constantly reviewing and assessing, with myself, my team, General Petraeus, and members of his command, how we see things developing on the political level.
CROCKER: I can't say what I'll be seeing a year or even six months from now. But what I can tell you is that I will make the same objective and honest assessment that I've tried to do for this testimony.
And, now, again, if I should at some future point come to the judgment that instead of a slight upward trend, we have a line moving in a downward direction, I'll be clear about it.
COLLINS: Ambassador, the first chart that General Petraeus showed us listed the major threats to Iraq and it talked about foreign fighters coming in from Syria, the possibility of turkey coming in and the concern about the PKK from Iran. We've had lethal aid, training and funding. There are also foreign fighters coming in from Saudi Arabia.
The Iraq Study Group's major recommendation, in addition to a change of mission, was for a diplomatic surge, to undertake a major diplomatic effort to involve Iraq's neighbors and to deal with all of these threats.
I know that you have met with the Iranians, but there really has not been a consistent, ongoing effort to engage all of Iraq's neighbors. Should we be doing more on the diplomatic front?
CROCKER: It's a great point, Senator, because the reality is that while Iraq's problems in their own context are extraordinarily difficult, Iraq also exists in a region.
And, as that slide demonstrates, the neighbors can make a hard situation that much -- that much worse. So that has to be part of the overall strategy.
We're doing two things on that. One is the neighbors initiative, if you will. There was a ministerial meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh in May that involved all of Iraq's neighbors plus the P-5 and the G-8.
Since then, there have been meetings of three working groups among the neighbors to focus on border security, refugees and energy. We were observers at those.
There was just a meeting of the neighbors representatives in Baghdad at the level of ambassadors on September 9th. And there will be another ministerial at the end of October or the beginning of November in Istanbul.
There is also a proposal out there to establish a permanent secretariat so that there will be a kind of an ongoing coordinating mechanism for some of these difficult issues. So that's at one level.
The other thing we're doing is -- and we coordinate together on this -- kind of bilateral initiatives, de marches in capitals and so forth. And we will continue to do that as well.
COLLINS: Thank you. I am going to go run for the vote.
Senator Akaka I believe is here, and I assume -- OK, we're going to recess, still, until 4:40 p.m., I believe.
Thank you very much.
PETRAEUS: Thank you, Senator.
LEVIN: Senator Akaka is next.
SEN. DANIEL K. AKAKA, D-HAWAII: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I've been very concerned about placing the responsibility of the new Iraqi government back in the hands of the Iraqi people.
In his speech on January 10th, the president said, and I'm quoting, I made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on it's promises, it will lose the support of the American people and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The prime minister must understand this.
And the president further stated, and I quote, America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced, end quote.
Mr. Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus, can you explain to me why we are not holding the Iraqi government accountable for failure to meet the benchmarks as the president said we would?
We have heard reports from the commission and reports from GAO pointing this out, but we have not heard about what we are going to do about it. And I am asking the question: Why are we not holding the Iraqi government accountable for this?
CROCKER: Senator, the benchmark exercise, the failure of the Iraqi government to fully implement a number of the benchmarks has been very frustrating to us, to me personally. It is frustrating to Iraqis. It is frustrating within the Iraqi government.
These are, in many cases, very complex legislative initiatives that are difficult to do, particularly in conditions of significant violence.
And it's really been in the last few months that we've actually seen the violence tend down in a substantial way.
My own view is that while the benchmarks are clearly important, while they are Iraq's own benchmarks, they are the ones who established them, the reality has been that in many cases, it has been simply too hard to do as a straight-up national-level legislative initiative.
That doesn't mean that they should quit or that we should stop pressing them. Neither is the case. It's a regular part of our discussions with the Iraqi leadership.
But I think we've got to be realistic here. They haven't been able to do them in the time that they and we agreed they should. They have done, as I discussed earlier, some practical things of kind of doing -- creating the effect of benchmarks without having the national level legislation. And we see that in amnesty, in de-Baathification and in revenue sharing, just to mention three.
So I guess the final point I would make, sir, is that we're got to keep in mind that benchmarks themselves are a means to an end. That end is reconciliation. And if reconciliation is being achieved without full implementation of benchmarks, we should not lose sight of that as a measure of progress.
PETRAEUS: Senator, let me talk, if I could, about the security- related benchmarks.
And, frankly, the Iraqis have done better there. They did provide the three brigades worth of forces. Yes, they're not all ORA number one because some of them are short equipment or short NCOs or something else.
PETRAEUS: But they are in the fight in Baghdad; those forces are there, they are involved. In fact, interestingly, some of them have really gained a good bit of respect of our coalition forces.
Interestingly, one from Basra, that is actually operating in the Sunni area, so a Shia -- predominantly Shia force from a Sunni area -- in a Sunni area, and the coalition commander actually wants that force to stay.
In addition, Prime Minister Maliki has not limited operations anywhere in Iraq. There was a time, my predecessor, as you may recall, was in the press, was directed or asked to remove some checkpoints, for example, around Sadr City at one point. We have not had restrictions after a couple months after I got there, and we talked our way through this.
And also, after Prime Minister Maliki came to understand, again, the real challenge that the sectarian -- the Shia militia extremists, in particular, pose to the new Iraq, and also the militia threat -- something that he became much more concerned about, over time.
And so, again, in that regard, there is a more positive level of performance. It is mixed in some other areas, one of those talking about the sectarian influence or influence in targeting -- there's things like that. And again, Maliki, himself, has done the right thing in this area. But here, we have some concerns about others, either in his office, or in other echelons of command, and therefore they have not done what we had certainly expected that they would do.
But on the security side, again, much -- I think it's fair to say a more positive assessment than with respect to the big legislative items.
AKAKA: We have had action, problems and violence as well, General. And Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, here in Washington, has said that, and I quote, In the six months, the surge has been under way. We have lost about 40 percent of the country to Shia factions, unquote.
In Basra, for example, the withdrawal of British troops seems to have led to an increase in Shia on Shia violence outside of government control.
General, do you agree with this -- with his assessment?
And, if not, how much of the country do you believe is now under the control of Shia factions?
PETRAEUS: Well, I don't -- I haven't sat down and figured out a percentage of the country that might be under Shia militia control. There are certainly large neighborhoods -- Sadr City, for one -- that, obviously, in which there is considerable, enormous Shia militia influence; several others in Baghdad.
And again, Prime Minister Maliki has actually taken steps to address this, in certain locations, in particular, and also in certain ministries. Because sectarian -- the Sadr movement really hijacked some of the ministries as well.
And he's taken some fairly courageous steps: detained the deputy minister of health; detained the brigadier general in charge of the facility protection security forces on the ministry of health and replaced the facility protection security forces around Medical City (ph).
And then I would have to walk down through the Shia south. There have certainly been serious challenges by Shia militia, including the assassination of two governors in southern provinces.
But I would not say, by and large, that there are entire provinces, by any means, that are completely under the sway of a -- in particular, the Sadr militia.
In most of those provinces, Iraqi security forces, by and large, have control. Certainly, Diwaniya is a bit dicey, but they've actually rolled back some of that.
But others, as you walk your way down -- and then, Basra, as I explained earlier, really is in the throes of both the establishment of a pretty strong security operational command under General Mohan, a four-star general, and a new police chief -- repositioning forces -- and really an Iraqi solution down there, a Shia Iraqi solution to an Iraqi problem that right now seems to be doing reasonably well.
We, in fact, hosted Tony Cordesman in Iraq, have, in fact, a great deal of time for him and for the piece that he had. This latest one, in fact, was titled, The Case for Strategic Patience. And it poses or it lays out all -- many of the challenges that we have described here, but also, as I said, does, in the end of the day make this case for strategic patience, given the national interests that are involved.
AKAKA: Thank you for your response.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Akaka.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, R-GA.: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And let me echo the thanks of everybody else here to you gentlemen, number one, for providing the kind of leadership in a very complex world at a critical point in the history of the world, the kind of leadership that's really needed right now; and also compliment you on what you've had to go through for the last 24 hours.
You've been worn down and asked every conceivable question that could have been asked about what's going on in your part of the world. But there are a couple of things that I want to get to.
First, General Petraeus, we were very pleased to have you stop by Georgia on your way from Baghdad to Washington and to visit Fort Benning over the weekend and to see the next generation of Petraeus qualify as airborne qualified, as he graduated from jump school.
I know you're just as proud of Stephen as he is of his dad. So congratulations to you there.
Let me -- well, one other thing I want to say to you, General. I get a lot of e-mails from soldiers on the ground because of the fact I've been there so many times and we have so many soldiers from the 3rd I.D. at Fort Benning and Fort Stewart that are over there.
I got an e-mail back in January, shortly after you were confirmed and went to Baghdad. And that e-mail was from a young soldier who had been on the ground for several months.
And he said, Senator, I just want you to know how refreshing it is to have new leadership on the ground in Iraq that is committed to winning this war.
And he sent me a copy of a memo that you had sent out to all of your commanders in the field. And he highlighted one phrase in that memo which said, Be relentless in your pursuit of the enemy. And he said, We haven't heard this before. And, with General Petraeus here now, it has boosted the morale of the soldiers on the ground like I've never seen.
So that's a great compliment to you, and it is the kind of leadership that we need if, in fact, we are going to prevail.
I want to back to what Senator Lieberman was talking about with this issue regarding Iran. We know that the Iranian influence is strong, particularly in the southern part of Iraq. We know that there are EFPs being manufactured in Iran or perhaps the parts being shipped from Iran into Iraq and manufactured. EFPs are more deadly than the IEDs so we know the Iranians are having a significant influence on Americans' lives.
What are we doing, Ambassador Crocker, from the diplomatic standpoint with the fact that you have already said in response to Senator Lieberman that you didn't get much in the way of a positive reaction on the other side? From a diplomatic standpoint is our discussion with the Iranians dead? Are we pursuing it any further? Or does it even merit pursuing it any further?
CROCKER: Senator, I think that it's an option that we want to preserve. Our first couple of rounds did not produce anything. I don't think that we should either, therefore, be in a big hurry to have another round, nor do I think we should say we're not going to talk anymore.
Things have strange ways of developing out in that part of the world. And it may be, for example, that in the wake of the pronouncement by Muqtada Sadr a week or so ago calling on the Jaish al-Mahdi to stand down in operations against both Iraqi and coalition forces after the negative reaction that Sadr and the Jaish al-Mahdi received because of their violence in Karbala during a religious festival, it could be that that could lead to some recalculations in Tehran. I don't know.
But I think we want to see how this plays out and see, again, whether the Iranians are ready to make another calculation of where their interests really lie. Because I would submit that for Iran, whose people suffered more than anyone else from Saddam except the Iraqis themselves, that a stable, secure Iraq that doesn't threaten its neighbors is in their long-term interest.
We'll see if they get to that calculation. I have absolutely no assurance that they will or not even very much confidence.
CROCKER: But I do believe it's important to keep the option for further discussions on the table.
CHAMBLISS: General Petraeus, what about from a military standpoint? Obviously, there is a very long border between Iran and Iraq.
What action are we moving on to try to make sure that we slow down the shipment of arms from the Iranians to the Iraqis?
PETRAEUS: First of all, Senator, we have conducted a number of operations against individuals connected with the EFP shipment process. In fact, we captured the Iraqi head of the Shibani (ph) network, as it's called. That is one of the major arms smuggling networks. A number of others along the way -- in fact, we just picked up a large EFP cache in the last 24 or 36 hours.
In addition, obviously, we are focusing a good deal of intelligence on this and we are working very closely with the Iraqi security forces and the now the Georgian brigade, the country of Georgia, not to be confused with your great home state. But the country of Georgia that has just deployed a brigade into Iraq -- very keen to operate outside the wire. And it is going to work hard to interdict and disrupt the flow of weapons and other assistance from Iran.
They are in a strategic location in Kut, southeast of Baghdad, astride the road that comes up from Maysan and also in from the border crossing that is to the east of Kut. And that, we believe, can have a positive effect, as well, and very much thicken and reinforce the actions of the Iraqis in that area.
CHAMBLISS: Is there any consideration given to -- or being given to establishing a larger military presence in the form of some sort of small base?
PETRAEUS: Sir, there is actually a very large base, already at Kut. It's a base that had been used by the Multi-National Division Center-South. And that is, in fact, where the Georgian brigade has deployed. And we do have -- we have a small U.S. headquarters there that works with them as well, provincial reconstruction team standing up, and then some border transition teams also working out of that location.
We may well put a patrol base or a combat outpost just to the west of the border crossing in that area, as well, to assist and to get eyes on, really, what is being done at that border entry point.
CHAMBLISS: Well, my time is up. But I thank both of you, again, for being very straightforward and honest in your assessment, as well as your presentation over the last two days.
PETRAEUS: Thank you, sir.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Chambliss.
Senator Bill Nelson?
BILL NELSON: Mr. Ambassador, earlier today, I asked you about Iran.
Does Iran support -- in your talks with the ambassador, do you get any indication that they support the Shiite government in Iraq?
CROCKER: Their stated policy is to support Iraq's new government and the efforts of that government to build a secure, stable, democratic Iraq.
Their actions run pretty much to the contrary. And that is a fact that the Iraqi government itself is aware of. The foreign minister of Iraq, speaking at a gathering of Iraq's neighbors on Sunday, publicly spoke over his concerns on intervention by the neighbors, by some of the neighbors in Iraq, with a negative security impact.
And it was clear that he was talking about Iran. So, again, you have a stated policy of support that simply is not borne out by reality on the ground.
BILL NELSON: General, if I may, earlier, in a conversation that you had with Senator Reed, the question was raised, can you sustain 130,000 troops -- which you have set as a benchmark at the end of next summer -- can you sustain that?
You tell me if I'm correct. I understood your answer to be, well, you would have to be able to sustain that not with the regular Army but with the reserves.
PETRAEUS: No, sir, I was talking about the surge. Had we -- if I had requested to extend the surge forces, the active brigade combat teams in the Army could not, with a 15-month tour length, have sustained that beyond, again, the 15 months of those particular deployments.
BILL NELSON: OK, if we had...
PETRAEUS: So it would have taken -- it would have taken forces from another component, from either the reserves or the National Guard. And I'm just not familiar with what the two services of the Army and the Marine Corps have available in the regard, and I haven't requested it...
BILL NELSON: Well, as the field commander, do you think that if you have a 15-month requirement for soldiers, that there should be 15 months off?
PETRAEUS: Senator, as I mentioned this morning, what I want as a field commander is the maximum possible. But, again, my job is not to determine the dwell-time for the Army or the Marine Corps. It really is to establish the requirements for the achievement of the objectives that we are trying to achieve.
BILL NELSON: Well, certainly, I would assume that you would have an opinion on that, because it would affect morale, rest and...
PETRAEUS: Sorry, as I said, the longer the better. I mean, again, the longer the better. But, again, it's just not something within my command field.
BILL NELSON: OK. All right, I understand.
So let's assume that the Congress enacts a requirement that if you're going to have 15 months in-country, you've got to have 15 months that you're not in-country. So now, looking down the road at your goal of 130,000 by the end of next summer, can you sustain that? Can you sustain that 130,000?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I don't know. I'm not, again, the service chief. I mean, I've seen discussions of this. My sense is that we could not. But again, I'm not the one to ask about that, I'm afraid. That's really a question for the army chief of staff.
BILL NELSON: Well, we will certainly ask that. And there's no mystery that the -- the Reserves and the National Guard had difficulty with regard to enlistments.
PETRAEUS: Sir, could I clarify one point, as well?
BILL NELSON: Please.
PETRAEUS: Because that is -- again, I'm not sitting here saying we're going to sit at 130,000 for -- again, what I have said is that we will continue to come down. What I don't know is what recommendation I can make about the slope of that line, if you will.
BILL NELSON: Well, correct me if I'm wrong, I clearly got the impression this morning that you think what we will have is 130,000 of our U.S. troops over there by the end of next summer.
Sir, what I have said is we will have 15 brigade combat teams and then we'll have to shape what the rest of the force is at that time and determine whether -- because we have actually had to bring some additional forces in above and beyond this because of detainee operations, IED Task Force and some other things that are there.
PETRAEUS: What I want to do is to get as low as we can. And I've already charged the chief of staff of the Multi-National Force to pull together the teams to start determining where we can achieve savings and combining functions of the two headquarters, logistics, a whole host of other areas. Wherever we can, we want to send folks home and not keep them over in Iraq.
BILL NELSON: Can you venture a guess or a wish...
PETRAEUS: Sir, I can not.
BILL NELSON: ... by the end of the year? Not this year...
PETRAEUS: I cannot, sir.
BILL NELSON: After the summer?
PETRAEUS: Again, what I've said is that, with any confidence at all, I cannot predict the level of the continued force drawdown beyond that point in mid-July, but that's what I have pledged to do is to assess that and make a determination and recommendations no later than mid-March.
BILL NELSON: And, of course, a lot of that would depend on whether or not there's political reconciliation.
PETRAEUS: That's an important factor, both nationally and locally, and other factors as well, obviously.
BILL NELSON: Do you see any indication, thus far, of political reconciliation?
PETRAEUS: Well, what I have seen again, as I mentioned earlier, Senator, is the prime minister himself and his office reaching out, again, to Sunnis in Anbar province. We haven't talked at all about what he did in Salahuddin province.
We actually flew him up to Tikrit the other day. He got off and went and met with a number of sheiks up there and had a similar initiative of to what has gone on in Anbar province.
Now, it's going to a while for that to reach critical mass. It's at the very early stages. But that is an important accommodation, if you will, and it is a tangible representation of a form of national reconciliation short of, certainly, the legislative items that represent national reconciliation.
We've talked about the fact that there's no oil revenue sharing law but there is oil revenue sharing going on; and it's actually, pretty decent. In fact, when I left Iraq in 2005, the provinces had no budgets whatsoever, came back in early part of this year. They actually had fairly substantial budgets and, in fact, even better, because last year they didn't spend them. They didn't spent about $10 billion. This year they're spending them which -- and again, in a country that is really a command economy, in many respects, certainly, there is some free market areas.
But the government spending is just hugely important in Iraq, because that is what does so much good for the people in a country with an enormous social safety net, but one that had a lot of holes torn in that safety net because of the sectarian violence, sectarian activities and so forth.
BILL NELSON: Looks like my time's up.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Nelson.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm not so sure two days of this is Geneva Convention compliant, but we'll keep going.
Let's just put on the table as honestly as we can what lies ahead for the American people and U.S. military if we continue to stay in Iraq. Now, I know you're not -- you can't predict with certainty the numbers we're going to have, but can you agree with this statement, General Petraeus, it's highly likely that a year from now we're going to have at least 100,000 troops in Iraq?
PETRAEUS: That is probably the case, yes, sir.
GRAHAM: OK. How many people have we been losing a month, on average, since the surge began, in terms killed in action?
PETRAEUS: Killed in action is probably in the neighborhood of 60 to 90. Probably on average, 80 to 90 -- average -- killed in action. That does not include the nineteen soldiers, for example, tragically killed last month in that helicopter crash.
GRAHAM: But here's what lies ahead for the American military. If we stay in Iraq and continue to support the surge through July, we're going to lose somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 military members, most likely, hundreds more.
PETRAEUS: Yes, sir.
GRAHAM: We're spending $9 billion a month to stay in Iraq, of U.S. dollars. My question for you: Is it worth it to us?
PETRAEUS: Well, the national interests that we have in Iraq are substantial. An Iraq that is stable and secure, that is not an Al Qaida sanctuary, is not in the grip of Iranian-supported Shia militia, that is not a bigger humanitarian disaster, that is connected to the global economy, all of these are very important national interests.
GRAHAM: Would that be a yes?
PETRAEUS: Yes, sir. Sorry.
GRAHAM: So you're saying to the Congress that you know that at least 60 soldiers, airmen and Marines are likely to be killed every month from now to July, that we're going to spend $9 billion a month of American taxpayer dollars, and when it's all said and done, we'll still have 100,000 people there, you believe it's worth it in terms of our national security interests to pay that price.
PETRAEUS: Sir, I wouldn't be here, and I wouldn't have made the recommendations that I have made if I did not believe that.
GRAHAM: Don't you think most soldiers who are there understand what lies ahead for them too?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I believe that's the case. And I have discussed the re-enlistment rates there. And they know the sacrifice that may be required of them during the tour of their next enlistment.
GRAHAM: Knowing what's coming their way, how is morale?
PETRAEUS: Sir, as a general characterization, let me just say that it's solid.
Because -- and you've heard this before -- I believe that morale is an individual thing, and morale is the kind of day that you are having. And if you lost a buddy that day, if I as the commander, if we have sustained losses that day, it's not a good day and morale is not great.
But that doesn't mean that you don't have enormous determination and commitment to this very, very important endeavor, one which they all recognize is hugely important to our country. And I think that one reason that they do re-enlistment, it's not just these tax-free bonuses, trust me. Those are wonderful, we are very grateful to the Congress for funding those, but this is about continuing to commit yourself to something that is bigger than self.
GRAHAM: General, I hear the statement more than any other statement from troops: The reason I'm here is I don't want my kids to have to come back. Do you hear that?
PETRAEUS: I do, sir. And I have a kid who, as you heard...
GRAHAM: Who's going to go, probably.
PETRAEUS: ... has pinned jump wings on, and may well, yes, sir.
GRAHAM: There's no may well. He'll either be in Iraq or Afghanistan. You know that, don't you?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I do.
GRAHAM: And the recommendations you're making make it more likely that your own son is going to go to war. You know that, don't you?
PETRAEUS: In Iraq. That's correct, sir.
GRAHAM: Anywhere. Yes, in Iraq.
PETRAEUS: That's right.
GRAHAM: Ambassador Crocker, what's the difference between a dysfunctional government and a failed state?
CROCKER: In a democratic system, governments -- or in a parliamentary democratic system such as Iraq has, there is a mechanism for the removal of governments that people get tired of. Parliament can simply vote no confidence. So it's, I think...
GRAHAM: Would you agree with me that Iraq is a dysfunctional government at this moment in time?
CROCKER: Certainly, it is a challenged government. I would not...
GRAHAM: You've called it dysfunctional.
CROCKER: If dysfunctional means...
GRAHAM: You could say we're dysfunctional and you wouldn't be wrong.
The point I'm trying to make is, to anybody who's watched this, this government is in a dysfunctional state. The point I'm trying to make, there's a difference between still trying and not trying.
What's the worst case scenario for the United States in Iraq as you see it?
CROCKER: Well, the worst case scenario would be a failure, either a complete failure on their part where dysfunctional government leads to failed state...
GRAHAM: What are the consequences of a failed state to the United States?
CROCKER: Just to finish my thought, that's one avenue. The other is simply a decision on our own part that we no longer want to sustain our commitment. I think either way you've got a failed state in Iraq.
That, in my view, has the gravest conceivable consequences for our own interests.
CROCKER: As I mentioned in my statement, and as Ahmadinejad has made clear, Iran would seek to fill the void.
GRAHAM: Is a failed state still possible in Iraq?
CROCKER: Yes, sir, it is a possibility.
GRAHAM: Do the actions we take here in Congress, in your opinion, affect that outcome one way or the other?
CROCKER: Yes, sir, they certainly could.
GRAHAM: General, what's the worst case scenario, militarily, for the United States, regarding Iraq?
PETRAEUS: Well, again, I think it is the consequences of, again, of a failed state, of failing to achieve our objectives and, really, to support the Iraqis achieving their objectives.
Again, it could include Al Qaida regaining lost ground and its freedom of maneuver. It would certainly be a very, very heightened ethno-sectarian level of violence. These alliances of convenience with outside forces would certainly flow from that; a humanitarian disaster of enormous proportions, for which we would share responsibility; and possibly some dislocation in the global economy, depending on what happens, obviously, with the flow of oil.
GRAHAM: Why do you think bin Laden is so worried about the outcome in Iraq?
CROCKER: Well, I think -- again, as I mentioned earlier, it has been regarded by Al Qaida senior leadership, AQSL, as the central front. They are trying to give us a bloody nose, which would be an enormous shot of adrenaline in the arm of international jihadists.
If they had a sanctuary that close, where they could, again, export elsewhere, I don't know what would happen, in terms of the fighters who are there, whether they would then turn to Afghanistan in a bigger way or go to source countries.
Again, that's a good question for the intelligence folks. But a lot of these scenarios are obviously pretty grim.
GRAHAM: Thank you both for your service.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Graham.
Senator Ben Nelson?
SEN. BEN NELSON, D-NEB.: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And let me add my appreciation, publicly, to you both for your service.
Before the surge in Baghdad, do we know what the mix was of residents of Sunnis, Shias and others, approximately?
PETRAEUS: What we have, Senator, is, literally, is a map that shows reasonably where there were predominantly Sunni, predominantly Shia, predominantly mixed.
PETRAEUS: And we have continued to track that. And tragically, one of the outcomes of the ethno-sectarian violence has been hardening of those certain areas into either more exclusively Shia or Sunni and the diminution of some of the mixed neighborhoods.
BEN NELSON: Well, in addition, has it resulted in a loss of Sunni residents in Baghdad, as well?
PETRAEUS: There has been displacement of Sunnis from Baghdad throughout the sectarian violence. And of course -- again, this is why we have focused on that subset that I mentioned, of overall deaths, the ethno-sectarian deaths, because that is the cancer that just keeps eating at the fabric of Iraqi society. And it won't stop if it is not stopped. It's not going to stop until something does, in fact, stop it.
And in this case, it is coalition and Iraqi forces stabilizing those neighborhoods and then trying to achieve a sustainable situation for the way ahead.
BEN NELSON: Well, do we know what the percentage of loss of Sunnis is in the Baghdad area?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I don't have the...
BEN NELSON: 10 percent, 20 percent loss?
PETRAEUS: I couldn't -- could not hazard a guess. They have -- there has been substantial Sunni Arab displacement from Baghdad. There has also been tragic displacement of Assyrian Christians from Baghdad. Those two, probably, most of all.
BEN NELSON: And out of the south. Out of the southern Shia region as well, it's my understanding. There's been an exodus of Christians from south. Were you aware of that?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I am less aware of that and more aware of the challenges to Assyrian Christians in Baghdad and also in some of their former areas in northern Iraq.
BEN NELSON: I've heard that there may have been displaced as many as 800,000 Christians in the Shia regions in southern Iraq.
Ambassador Crocker, do you know anything about that?
CROCKER: No, sir, I don't. I'll certainly check into that. We are in regular touch with Christian representatives, and I am, myself. Their concerns have been focused on Baghdad and areas to the north. I never heard them raise a problem in the south.
BEN NELSON: It's my understanding that the problem is with the militias and the ethno-cleansing that is going on there as well.
PETRAEUS: Sir, I think, literally, it may be South Baghdad. There's one area, in particular, of Southeast Baghdad that was, in fact, the Dora area a -- in Assyrian Christian, or Christian, in general, enclave from which there has been tragic displacement.
BEN NELSON: I think they really had a reference to both, so if we would check, that would be helpful.
And you mentioned that when it comes to the south, that there have been loss of a couple of governors. A couple of governors sitting here thought that might be -- former governors sitting here thought that might be fairly significant.
PETRAEUS: It is very significant, sir.
BEN NELSON: Well, I'm being lighthearted about it, but it does represent a significant level of violence in the south as well.
PETRAEUS: Sir, what it represents is really very targeted militia activity against governors who had in one case definitely, in another case sort of mixed stood up to the militias.
Interestingly, it may be another case, as the ambassador mentioned, of the militia overplaying their hand because where there was a willingness to have some accommodation in the past between the militia -- really, the party that the militia represent and so forth by some of the governors and other political figures, there is less willingness for that now. And that also is as a result of the violence in Karbala, which Prime Minister Maliki took very personally, in fact personally led the column of military vehicles down there to sort it out.
BEN NELSON: Ambassador Crocker, you said when looking at the government of Iraq in terms of trying to meet the underlying goals of the benchmarks that we shouldn't get lost in the benchmarks, we should try to evaluate whether or not they're achieving success.
Would you agree that there are three things that you need to look for in connection with that? Is there a commitment to do it? Is there effort being made to do it? Because it's quite possible there's a commitment, there's effort, but the results become more difficult, because as you have both have said, Iraq is hard, it's hard for us and it's obviously hard for that government.
But do we -- can we make that analysis on, is there commitment to reconciliation? I talked to some and have heard from others that they question whether that is the case, it's winner take all in many respects.
Now, you are suggesting, General, that the prime minister is getting outside of Baghdad and going into other areas. I think that's a very positive step. But isn't it the case that in Iraq they're going to have to have a Sunni or a Shia or a Kurd somewhere in the top position?
BEN NELSON: And while they may not believe that they get an honest broker, will they be satisfied with an effective broker that seeks equity among all the groups? Is that fair?
CROCKER: That's a great point. There has been effort.
The trip of the prime minister up to Tikrit, Saddam's old home town, the additional budgetary resources for Anbar and the visit of the Shia vice president and the Kurdish deputy prime minister to Anbar illustrate that.
And then, going to your main point there, the question came up earlier as to whether the reports were true that when Prime Minister Maliki visited Ayatollah Sistani, a few days ago, that he had raised the possibility of technocratic cabinet ministers chosen not because of their sectarian or ethnic identity but because of their ability to do their jobs.
That would be more equitable in dealing with the people, would you agree?
CROCKER: Absolutely, sir. And one thing we had seen is a lot of frustration among Iraqis and even within the Iraqi government over where this heavy focus on sectarian and ethnic balance in cabinet has taken the country, in terms of effective governance.
So if it has brought them to the level of frustration where the key leaders are prepared to say good governance is more important than strict sectarian and ethnic balance, then that I would consider progress.
BEN NELSON: Well, and you've had several -- you used the word if several times there, so I suspect it's a hypothetical at the moment, but hope for result in the future.
Finally, let me say, as we look at the surge, several of us didn't necessarily support the surge going into Baghdad. We had reservations about that. I think I communicated that when we met. No reservations about going into Al Anbar with the surge.
What are your thoughts about transitioning the mission out of Baghdad, in terms of the troops for over a six-month period to draw down out of Baghdad -- not withdrawing or anything of that sort, but standing up the capable -- the combat capable troops that Iraq has to begin to take over that responsibility so they can secure themselves and they govern themselves?
Again, if not, it is going to be very difficult.
And, then, make the mission stronger in going after the bad guys in the north, where we're having cooperation from the local sheiks, tribal leaders and others.
Also, because that's where -- as we've driven Al Qaida and the bad guys out of Baghdad, they've gone elsewhere -- go after them, and then go to the south and work diligently to get the local forces there to work with us in reducing the sectarian violence and the other violence that just comes from Shia versus Shia, due to the constant militias?
What are your thoughts about that suggestion?
PETRAEUS: Well, Senator, as I mentioned, the title of the recommendations, if you will, Security While Transitioning, captures the idea that we certainly want to hand off as quickly as we can.
But, as was stated in the December 2006 assessment that was done by Ambassador Khalilzad and General Casey, when they determined that the effort at that time was failing to achieve the objectives, the emphasis that it put on was reducing the sectarian violence in Baghdad, in particular, because of that being the center of gravity for so much of Iraq.
So what we want to do, certainly, is to try to achieve sustainable situations in these neighborhoods and then, obviously, to hand off over time.
I don't think that we need to put U.S. forces in southern provinces, other than, say, some special forces teams or occasionally sending something down to help out.
But, by and large, in the south, what we want to do there is to develop these special units, if you will, in each province. And every province has them.
The special tactics unit in Nasariya, for example, which is supported by one of our special forces teams, although they don't live with that, but when that unit, on occasion, a couple of times in the last -- I don't know -- six or seven months, has needed some assistance, and then our team links up with it, gets -- if it's close air support or what have you, unmanned aerial vehicle or whatever it may be, it provides that enabler.
But otherwise, that force on the ground has been capable of doing what it is needed to do. And we're trying to do that in other areas as well, without increasing the conventional combat footprint in those particular areas.
BEN NELSON: Well, in the process of doing that, it's quite likely that your force needs will reduce in Iraq, particularly if we -- what are your thoughts in terms of having a second piece of that phasing out of Baghdad, also establishing the residual force that is going to be there for a significant period of time, as in the case of Korea, Japan, Germany.
I don't know that it's time to establish what it is in its entirety. But moving to the borders for border protection, protecting our assets there, both the private assets of the contractors who are rebuilding, protecting the Iraqi government and continuing to support them in the development of their security forces, including perhaps, as the Jones report said, firing all of their police officers and starting over.
It's a major job, but it's going to be an ongoing job for a long time and could require a smaller force ultimately, which I think would enable a reduction in the number that are there, take pressure off the ops tempo to get to a level where it is sustainable in the future.
PETRAEUS: Sir, the Central Command headquarters, my boss, Admiral Fallon, and with -- very much with our support from the MNF-I staff, because that's, frankly, where a lot of the expertise, needless to say, resides, did a recent look, at the request of the secretary of defense, at what a force -- a long-term force might look like, literally down at the lower end there in that stair step that you saw.
So we have looked at that, looked at the force mix, looked at the task mix, and so forth. The challenge, obviously, is getting there from here, trying to do it as expeditiously as we can, but, again, without rushing to failure along the way.
LEVIN: I think we'll have to leave that there, because you're over.
BEN NELSON: Thank you.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Nelson.
DOLE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker, you're coming up on eight hours of testimony today alone. Thank you very much for your excellent presentations. And I thank you both for your tremendous service, your leadership in our country.
Let me say at the outset that all of us here and all Americans want to see our brave young men and women come home as soon as possible. My home state has 37,000 currently deployed troops.
SEN. ELIZABETH DOLE, R-N.C.: A total of 151,000 personnel have been deployed. Our shared heartfelt concerns in the Senate for our troops and for the safety and security of our country should draw us towards consensus. But as we all know, a conspicuous gap exists between two policy positions; namely a long-term commitment on the one hand and mandated withdrawal on the other.
Gentlemen, we must seek common ground based on a set of shared principles.
A growing number of our fellow Americans oppose a long-term U.S. military commitment. At the same time, many understand the profoundly negative long-term security implications for our country and for the Middle East of a premature withdrawal before Iraqi security forces are able to independently conduct security operations across their country.
The difficulty of the current American and Iraqi situation is rooted in large part in the Bush administration's substantial failure to understand the full implications of our military invasion and the litany of mistakes made at the outset of the war.
Regardless, our task must be to see the way forward, to agree upon a policy that the majority of Americans will support and one that provides the American and Iraqi people with the greatest opportunity for success.
I believe that a requisite level of security must be a precondition for political reconciliation, and we know that security has improved in substantial areas of the country.
The continued failure of the Maliki government to achieve reconciliation and the fact that current U.S. force levels are not sustainable beyond next spring compels me to support what some have called action-forcing measures.
General Petraeus, I strongly agree with your recommendation to begin withdrawal of the equivalent of six brigades between this month and next July. I would hope, consistent with your security assessment, that many units not withdrawn could be reassigned beginning next spring to conduct border security operations, to reduce the flow of Iranian arms, particularly explosively formed projectile and other military supplies, to more effectively deny entry to foreign fighters through Syria, to supplement the training of additional Iraqi security forces, to conduct support operations or to back up Iraqi forces that increasingly should have the lead in security operations.
A recent Wall Street Journal article described that the Pentagon is preparing to build its first base for U.S. forces near the Iraq- Iran border in a major new effort to curb the flow of advanced Iranian weaponry to Shiite militants. And of course, there must be more, which has been discussed in the recent questioning. And I certainly would like to see more secure borders and more activity along the long border and of course on the Syrian border as well as we move people out of the Baghdad region and more into the border areas.
But let me ask a question about neighboring Arab countries. Why have neighboring Arab countries that have profound vested interest in a stable Iraq -- Saudi Arabia, the gulf states, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, Lebanon -- why have they not stepped up to the plate, both diplomatically and economically?
DOLE: Recent diplomatic successes are welcome, but are modest, relative to the need.
Could you both discuss this matter for me, please?
CROCKER: Yes, ma'am. It's an important part of an overall strategy for success in Iraq. We have been engaged with Iraq's Arab neighbors and they have engaged with each other and with Iraq. That's the whole point of the neighbors exercise...
CROCKER: ... the meeting that took place on Sunday, the ministerial that will occur in Istanbul.
We have pressed these states on issues such as debt relief. They hold billions of dollars in Iraqi debt from the days of the Saddam regime and the Iran/Iraq war. By and large, now they have agreed to forward Paris Club terms to Iraq, which is 80 percent debt forgiveness. We would like to see that moved to 100 percent, for example.
There have been some other steps with the neighbors. Saudi Arabia is planning to re-open its embassy in Baghdad, and that will be the first step for them since the fall of the Saddam regime. And we would hope it would show the way to other Arab neighbors that the time has come to resume an active diplomatic presence in Baghdad.
We've also pressed -- oh, and there is a negotiation that is just about to conclusion between Iraq and Kuwait that will provide for the supply of Kuwaiti diesel to Iraq, and that's critical for power generation.
We've also been in direct touch with the Arab neighbors on security-related issues, particularly on foreign fighters.
CROCKER: And while the flow is through Syria, the origins are from other Arab states in the Gulf.
And we have strongly urged steps, for example, for these states to prevent easy travel by, say, young men on one-way plane tickets heading for Damascus airport.
And indeed, I think one of your recent detainees, a Saudi picked up in Iraq had had to get from Saudi Arabia to Syria by bus, because he wasn't allowed to fly out.
So we're going to continue a diplomatic strategy that is focused on the neighboring states, in particular, the Arab states. They are -- they are starting to do more. I think they are starting to accept that they have critical equities in how things turn out in Iraq and are moving beyond the state they've been in for the last several years of just not wanting to engage to accepting that the outcomes are important to them and they can affect the -- they can affect the outcomes.
PETRAEUS: Senator, Jordan, first of all, has always been really quite supportive and has worked very hard to limit foreign fighter flow, to ensure that support for Al Qaida is disrupted and defeated as much as possible from there.
Syria may have taken some steps against some of the foreign fighter facilitators in its country. It is something that we are literally looking at very hard to see how much they have done. But they do recognize, we believe, that Al Qaida poses a very serious threat to them, that should Al Qaida have success in Iraq, the next one you turn on might be that minority government in Damascus.
And we see signs that they recognize that and have taken some steps, again, to make it more difficult.
And as the ambassador mentioned, some of the source countries have made it more difficult for military age males also to travel on a one-way ticket to Damascus.
Again, the more that can be done, in that regard -- writ large -- in any way, to limit the flow of individuals from source countries through Syria, in particular, into Iraq is something that helps Iraq enormously, because a number of these end up being the suicide bombers that have created such horrific casualties in certain occasions in Iraq.
DOLE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Dole.
DOLE: My time's expired.
LEVIN: Senator Bayh?
SEN. EVAN BAYH, D-IND.: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Gentlemen, thank you.
I want to express my appreciation for your service to our country. In a democracy, having a dialogue like this, questioning your recommendations, even your judgment is entirely appropriate. I don't believe that questioning your integrity is. And so I appreciate your candor and your service and your presence here today.
Let me begin -- this is our -- you've had to go through eight hours. This is our fourth hearing over the last several days. We heard from the GSA (sic), from General Jones. We heard about the national intelligence estimate. And now we have the benefit of your thinking.
Let me kind of give you what I have concluded is the collective bottom line in all this and get your response. The bottom line in all this is that the American people, particularly our service men and women, but also our taxpayers, will be required to continue to sacrifice in Iraq for an indefinite period of time to allow Iraqi politicians to get their act together -- to make the tough decisions that only they can make to hopefully begin the process of reconciliation.
What's your reaction to that?
CROCKER: There is a process under way that we've talked about in the course of the afternoon. It's bottom-up to some degree. It's top-down to some degree. And it's linkages between them. It's the beginnings, if you will, of a reconciliation process that, obviously, needs to go much farther if it is to carry Iraq to a position of security and stability over the long run.
BAYH: Ambassador, there is a question behind my observation and you mentioned the process about (inaudible) let me get to it. For several years now, the progress has not been adequate. I think we'd all agree.
And the theory has been, Look, insecure people don't make hard decisions. We need to try and increase their confidence, their security so that perhaps they'll begin to make the hard decisions. It just doesn't seem to have worked that way. They dither. They delay. And so we face this dilemma.
If we stand by them, they tend to take our support for granted and seem a little more comforted by that and don't make the hard decisions. And yet your advice, as I understand it, is timelines would not be helpful.
So my question to you is: What about accountability for taking these hard steps? What about consequences if they don't? Sixty to 70 troops every month. $9 billion to $12 billion every month. They're not doing what they need to do.
When do we say, enough already? and have some consequences when they don't?
CROCKER: Again, it's important to bear in mind the recent past; 2006, up through early 2007 was an extremely bad period in Iraq. Not only were things not moving forward; they were sliding back, in political terms, economic terms and, above all, in security terms.
Iraq came pretty close, I think, to just unraveling, in the course of that year that began with the February bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.
BAYH: There is some history in Iraq before that time frame you just mentioned. And they weren't making progress then, either.
CROCKER: Senator, the challenges are immense. The failures are there, too, on the Iraqi side. It is frustrating to me. I'm out there. We are pushing them constantly, in all sorts of ways.
But I've got to be honest. This is going to take more time.
BAYH: Well, and I think we all need to be honest with ourselves, Ambassador -- and I've appreciated the general's comments about modesty in making predictions is in order and overemphasizing our ability to control events needs to be guarded against.
And isn't it possible, at the end of the day, in spite of all of our efforts, support and encouragement, this just may be beyond them, for a variety of reasons: outside interference, historic enmities, a lack of leadership, all those kinds of things?
And don't we constantly need to be evaluating their capabilities and whether they can get this done, to justify the continuing sacrifices that we're making?
CROCKER: I think, clearly, that's the case. I mean, we're here before you today to give our best assessments, in four lines of operation, where we see things standing now, and...
BAYH: What you're hearing from a lot of us is, so often, in these last several years, we've tried to give their political leadership the benefit of the doubt. And now only doubt remains. And so there we are.
General, I hope, but I think you've to be a little skeptical about it at this point, too.
And that's why I kind of come down on the side of consequences, some accountability, because just kind of gentle encouragement doesn't seem to have gotten the results that we want, if, in fact, they can be gotten.
General, I'd like to turn to you. I thought you had an excellent, very candid response to Senator Warner's question, and that was, he asked you, going forward, the recommendations that you're making, will that make America safer. And you said that you could not answer that question because that was beyond the purview of your -- beyond the scope of your responsibilities.
PETRAEUS: Well, I thank you, actually, Senator, for an opportunity to address that, frankly.
Candidly, I have been so focused on Iraq that drawing all the way out was something that for a moment there was a bit of a surprise. But I think that we have very, very clear and very serious national interests in Iraq. Trying to achieve those interests -- achieving those interests has very serious implications for our safety and for our security.
BAYH: Well, let me ask about those interests.
PETRAEUS: So I think the answer really, to come back to it, is yes. But again, frankly, having focused down and down and down, that was something that really on first glance is something that I would let others above me...
BAYH: I judged by your response to Senator Graham that you'd given that a little additional thought.
PETRAEUS: Immediately after, actually.
BAYH: That happens to all of us, including those of us on this side of the table as well.
Let me ask you about those interests, then. And you referred to the DIA, and then you referred to things that we picked up about how Al Qaida views Iraq as being the central front in the war on terror and so forth.
But let me refer to some other public statements of our intelligence services and then ask you this question about the importance, which we all agree upon, of Iraq not becoming a platform from which terrorists can operate against us or other countries. And that's why almost every responsible person thinks that we need to keep a capability there to deal with that.
So let me tell you what the CIA's experts on radical Islam have indicated in public testimony. They have indicated that it is their assessment that on a global, not just Iraq-specific, but on a global basis, our presence in Iraq is generating more radicals and terrorists than we are eliminating in Iraq. So on a net basis, we're actually creating more enemies than we are eliminating.
They've also indicated that Al Qaida is reconstituting itself in Afghanistan and perhaps in the tribal areas in Pakistan, and their assessment of the radicals Iraq, the Al Qaida in Iraq members -- I asked them this question directly, General.
I said, Who do they hate more? The apostates or the infidels? I mean, once we've sort of reduced our footprint and aren't as obvious a target any more, where is their enmity going to turned?
And their response was, Well, they'll turn on the Shia. They really hate them more than they hate us.
So, my question to you, because my time is going to run out here, isn't it at least possible that, looking at this from a global perspective, that the strategy we've pursued in Iraq and indeed our presence there and the magnitude that we currently are there is in fact somewhat counterproductive in terms of the global war against terrorism and making America safer?
PETRAEUS: Senator, I think, again, if Al Qaida was to be able to retain a substantial presence in Iraq, particularly a sanctuary in the order of what they had in certain areas, in fact, prior to the surge, that that would be a very serious threat.
I don't know where they would go next. Some have speculated that, in fact, they might focus more on Afghanistan, others more in the particular region there, to go after some of the other countries in that particular region.
But I think that, again, based on their own communications, that -- and on, again, the CIA and the JSOC commander's assessment, this is their central front in the global war of terror that they are carrying out. It has been, at least.
And, again, it is hard to tell whether they will continue to regard it that way because of the loss of some momentum there.
And I am not sure that it is true that they are still generating more radicals in Iraq. I think, again, one of the big changes, as I've reported in the past six, eight, 12 months, if you will, dating all the way back certainly to October of last year when the first of these tribal oppositions to Al Qaida emerged, is that the Sunni Arabs in Al Qaida, and that is the area in which they have been able to find sanctuary and so forth, have in large numbers turned against Al Qaida.
They've gotten over the fact that they're not going to run Iraq again. They've gotten over the fact that they're disrespected in their view, dispossessed, whatever it may be, and now want to make the Euphrates river valley a decent place to live, work and raise a family and maybe even open up the border, and now they've got a police academy again and the rest of that, and rebuild Ramadi and some of these other places. And others have seen the same.
And what they really want now is a seat at the table in Baghdad. They want adequate representation. They want their share of this ethno-sectarian competition for power and resources. They want their share of the resources.
And that's why it is significant, as the ambassador reported on the Anbar big summit that was held out there the other day, the second of these, where the national government has reached out to them in such a substantial way.
So I think how Al Qaida plays out in Iraq is of enormous importance to our country and to the overall international jihadist movement. And failing to achieve our objectives there would be just an enormous shot of adrenaline to them, I'm afraid.
BAYH: Gentlemen, thank you again. My time has expired. I just would conclude by saying we all hope that -- we all want to be successful in Iraq. We all hope that these signs you indicate come to fruition, but there's a lot of history there. And we have to ask to ourselves: What if they do not and how do we go about securing the national security interests of our country if, in fact, that is the course that events take?
PETRAEUS: Thank you.
BAYH: Thank you.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Bayh.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-TEXAS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Gentlemen -- Mr. Ambassador, you have my respect and admiration and I appreciate your service to our country, particularly in the challenging jobs that you have -- you are performing now. It's because of my respect and admiration for both of you that I was particularly shocked and chagrin when I happened to open the New York Times on Sunday to see this ad purchased by moveon.org.
I don't know if I have ever witnessed a more reprehensible slander of a public servant and a patriot as represented in this ad. And it's my hope that members of this committee will join me -- and matter of fact, all members of the United States Senate will join together without regard to partisan affiliation and condemn this ad and restate our confidence in General Petraeus, the same confidence that was manifested when he was confirmed by a unanimous vote of the United States Senate just this last January.
It's a pretty tough environment, I know, you're working in, Ambassador and General, in Iraq. It's a pretty tough environment here in Washington in another way.
General, when you were confirmed in January, you announced, not only as the new leader there, you were announced a new strategy in Iraq; something people had been calling for for a long time.
People had been asking for some signs of progress in the security situation. You've come back here today as the Jones Commission did last week, as did the National intelligence Estimate in August, and report that some security progress being made in Iraq -- positive news in any other context.
You've announced here today that you would likely recommend significant cuts in troops over the next year, something that people in this room and on Capitol Hill have been calling for a long time. And you would, again, think that that would be met with some appreciation, some gladness.
Mr. Ambassador, there have been those who said that we weren't doing enough to talk to the people in the neighborhood, Iran, and Syria and others.
CORNYN; And indeed, since that time, since January, since General Petraeus was confirmed, that's happened. And you've reported on that.
Here again, something, I would think, that would be met with an appreciation for the progress, or at least the effort, that that entails.
And then, of course, there were those, General, that announced, shortly after the president announced the surge of troops into Iraq, announced it a failure or predicted a failure, at the outset, before the surge had even -- had even occurred.
And I guess it just goes to show that it's a bad bet to bet against the men and women of the United States military. Because it has demonstrated some significant successes.
So I guess this is an unusual case, General and Ambassador, where you come bringing what otherwise might be regarded as good news, or at least progress, and it's the first case, I guess, I've seen of shooting the messenger for bringing good news.
It's a strange time we find ourselves in, a strange environment here in Washington.
But my question -- really, what I want to ask you about, in particular, are the consequences of failure. Because it seems to me that, too often, there is a debate in the abstract about what's happening.
And, General, you've already said that you believe what we're doing in Iraq is making us safer here at home.
But I would like to ask, if we embraced the suggestion of some here on Capitol Hill that we would pull out our troops before the Iraqis were able to govern and defend themselves, what the consequence would be.
I know we've talked about providing a failed state, a power vacuum into which Al Qaida would fill. You've talked about Iran. But, in particular, I'd like to get your assessment, General and Ambassador, about the humanitarian crisis that would likely occur.
Could you speak to that, please, General, first?
PETRAEUS: Well, Senator, first of all, there has already been a humanitarian crisis in Iraq, as you know. The estimates run as high as 2 million that have left the country and perhaps that number that have been displaced within the country. So this is already a tragic situation.
One of our areas of focus has, as I mentioned, been to try to stabilize and to reduce the ethno-sectarian violence that is really the engine of that displacement.
Some of that has continued. Some has risen to the level of cleansing. But in many areas, again, it has stabilized it and kept it from continuing. Because this is not something, again, that just stops of its own accord.
It doesn't reach the highway to the airport, let's say, and say: That's it. It then hops over and it keeps on going. And so that has been a big effort and we have a lot more work to do in that regard, as I mentioned up front, very clearly. We're not at a point that is at all satisfactory, but the trend line, again, is good. But the level to which that could go if it got out of hand again and became even worse, obviously, could be horrific.
CORNYN: I believe the figures, I recall off the top of my head about genocide in Darfur roughly 400,000 people killed there.
Would this be rival or exceed the magnitude of that sort of death by ethnic cleansing?
CROCKER: Sir, it's obviously very -- it's very difficult to predict. My previous experience, for example, in Lebanon in the early 80's, I was there at the time of the massacres in the Palestinian camps following our withdrawal in 1982.
When those massacres took place, I knew that some very bad consequences were likely to be set in train, but I couldn't begin to predict where we would be a year later, for example, with the resurgence of Hezbollah and the bombing of both the embassy and Marine barracks with horrific consequences for us. I had a failure of imagination and I don't think in the intervening years my imagination has gotten any more accurate or strong.
But I would be very concerned that, in a context in which the U.S. was seen to be definitely backing away, and backing away in a sense that projected the signal in Iraq and elsewhere that we were not coming back; there's not going to be a second surge; it's over for us. I think the prospects of a truly catastrophic humanitarian disaster would be considerable.
CORNYN: In the order of a hundreds of thousands or millions?
CROCKER: It could be that, sir, because it could be a situation that would be so dramatic that it would bring in neighboring states. Then you would have a failed state. You would have basically a meltdown inside Iraq. And the ensuing violence within Iraq plus ambitions of some of Iraq's neighbors, like Iran, could bring these states in and we could be looking at regional conflict as well as a horrific humanitarian disaster.
I can't say that's going to happen, I can't predict that's going to happen, but it's certainly something that could happen.
CORNYN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LEVIN: Senator Cornyn, thank you.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, D-N.Y.: I want to thank both of you, General Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker, for your long and distinguished service to our nation. Nobody believes that your jobs or the jobs of the thousands of American forces and civilian personnel in Iraq are anything but incredibly difficult.
But today you are testifying about the current status of our policy in Iraq and the prospects of that policy. It is a policy that you have been ordered to implement by the president. And you have been made the de facto spokesmen for what many of us believe to be a failed policy.
Despite what I view as your rather extraordinary efforts in your testimony both yesterday and today, I think that the reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief.
In any of the metrics that have been referenced in your many hours of testimony, any fair reading of the advantages and disadvantages accruing post-surge, in my view, end up on the downside.
I started my morning today at ground zero, where once again the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of the attack on our country were read solemnly in the rain.
We have seen Osama bin Laden reappear on our television sets, essentially taunting us. We have the most recent reports out of Germany of terrorists plotting against American assets who have been trained in Pakistan. And we get very little comfort from the fact that the mastermind of that mass murder is at large, neither captured nor killed, and that the Taliban and Al Qaida are resurging in Afghanistan and their network is certainly, if not tightly organized, a loose confederacy that has grave consequences for us.
With respect to Anbar province, a lot has been made of the coalition's work with the sheiks, but that was going on before the surge.
General, in your testimony during your confirmation hearings you referenced the fact that the sheiks were coming over, that there was already a decision by a lot of the tribal leaders that they would no longer tolerate the extraordinary brutality of the Al Qaida elements in Al Anbar province.
With respect to violence within Iraq, although the charts tell part of the story, I don't think they tell the whole story. If you look at all of the evidence that's been presented, overall civilian deaths have risen. The number of car bombings is higher. May was the deadliest month in 2007 with 1,901 civilian deaths.
American military casualties are greater every month in 2007 than in the same month in 2006, leaving us with a total thus far, through August, of 739 Americans killed.
The Iraqi reconciliation process is now described as relying upon bottoms-up efforts, which are anecdotal, which have very little hard evidence to support what needs to be accomplished.
Senator Warner's very specific questions about what is happening from top down certainly lead to the conclusion that not very much is occurring that can give us comfort that the Iraqi leadership is yet ready to put aside their sectarian, commercial and personal interests for some kind of greater Iraqi political reconciliation.
Iraqi public opinion, according to an ABC, BBC, NHK poll released September 10th shows that since the escalation began, Iraqi opinion has starkly turned against the U.S. occupation, as most Iraqis see deepening dissatisfaction with conditions in Iraq, lower ratings for the national government, growing rejection of the U.S. role there.
For example, 65 percent to 70 percent of Iraqis say the escalation has worsened rather than improved security; 39 percent say that their lives are going well, down from 71 percent in November 2005; and 47 percent now favor immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, a 12 point rise since March.
Overwhelming majorities give negative ratings to electricity, jobs and access to health care.
So I give you tremendous credit for presenting as positive a view of a rather grim reality. And I believe that you, and certainly the very capable people working with both of you, were dealt a very hard hand.
And it's a hand that is unlikely to improve, in my view.
General, I want to ask you what -- about what appeared to be a contradiction in your testimony. Earlier today, you were asked by Senator Biden if, in fact, the circumstances on the ground are exactly what they are today in March of next year, will you recommend the continuation of somewhere between 130,000 and 160,000 American troops being shot at, killed, and maimed every day.
Your answer, I would be very hard-pressed to recommend that at that point in time.
In response to Senator Collins, who asked, I thought, a very important question about what if in a year from now, there has been very little progress, your answer was, Well, we would have to consider what to do at that time.
General, don't you think the American people deserve a very specific answer about what is expected from our country in the face of the failure of the Iraqi government to pursue its own required political agenda that they have essentially been unwilling or incapable of doing so?
PETRAEUS: Senator, I don't see quite as big a difference in the answer.
But, I mean, I will stand by the answer that I gave earlier, which is that I would be very hard-pressed, at that time, to recommend a continuation.
As you know, this policy is a national policy that results from policies put forward at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, with the advice and consent and resources provided at the other. And I would, obviously, provide recommendations to that.
And again, I would just say, I would be very hard-pressed at that time. It's an awfully big hypothetical. And it is not something that I would want to try to determine right here, right now, about a point a year from now, without some sense of all the other variables that, I think, understandably, would go into a huge recommendation like that.
CLINTON: Ambassador, it's not only the Iraqi government that, in my view, has failed to pursue a coherent strategy. I think our own has as well.
You've been tasked, as I understand it, with carrying the only contact with the Iranians and others in the region. And many of us have long advocated that our government needed to be much more engaged in a robust diplomatic effort.
Do you believe that, if the full force and effect of the American government were brought to bear on the region and, more broadly, on countries that have a stake in the future of Iraq, even beyond the region, that there were some process established that could begin to try to sort out what was or wasn't possible, that that would be an additional benefit to your efforts, going forward in Iraq?
CROCKER: Senator, engaging the region and the international community more broadly in support of Iraq is important. And that is ongoing and it's accelerating.
This fall, we'll have at least two ministerial-level meetings on Iraq, the one that I mentioned involving the neighbors, plus the P-5 and the G-8 in Istanbul.
And then, in a little less than two weeks in New York, the secretary general of the U.N. and Prime Minister Maliki will jointly chair an international ministerial-level meeting to review progress on the International Compact with Iraq and also to focus on how the new United Nations mandate for Iraq -- the expanded mandate for Iraq can most effectively be implemented.
So I think we're seeing an increase in regional and international diplomacy in support of Iraq. We're also starting to see, I think, some change in attitudes. I talked a little bit earlier about some positive developments among some of Iraq's Arab neighbors. I think we're also seeing a new look at Iraq on the part of, at least, some of the European states.
During a 10-day period, for example, at the end of August, we had the visits of Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister of France, and then right after that, Carl Bildt, the foreign minister of Sweden -- the first time, really, since 2003, we have seen major European states kind of send their foreign ministers into Iraq to kind of assess where Iraq is and how they can perhaps more effectively engage for the future.
So I think we're seeing that kind of diplomatic initiative now gain some further momentum.
CLINTON: Thank you.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Clinton.
SEN. JOHN THUNE, R-S.D.: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, thank you very much for your extraordinary service and thank you for your indulgence in being here today.
I know both you, Mr. Ambassador and General, are runners. I know, General, you are a marathon runner and I want you to know that when you get to this point on the dais at a hearing you're like on mile 23 in a marathon, so you're almost there.
We appreciate very much your patience. And also want to convey our appreciation to the men and women who serve under your command. Please let them know how grateful we are for their service.
They are the best of the best.
What I would like to do, Generals, is, Senator Graham asked a question about the morale of our troops over there, which you answered.
And, by the way, your testimony here and report has probably been the most hyped event in this city in a long time. Many of us for months now have been saying that we're waiting to hear this report.
And I will have to say that you have not disappointed. Your report has been full. It's been comprehensive. It's been factual. It has been objective and independent. You've not sugar-coated things.
I think that we appreciate very much your willingness to give us an assessment -- an honest assessment -- of where things stand.
I want to hone in on the whole question of the Iraqi troops. And, General, what is the morale of the Iraqi troops? And are they taking ownership of this mission?
PETRAEUS: As I mentioned in the testimony, sir, there is an unevenness to it. The Iraqi forces range from extremely good, high- end -- the Iraqi special operations force brigade with a counterterrorist commando battalion that is now multiplying, the national emergency response unit, the special tactics unit -- these forces are absolutely superb.
They are in operation just about every night, if not more, and every day. And we are now positioning them around country as well, including some in Basra.
There are other very special forces in just about each of the provinces. And, again, as I mentioned, in many cases our own special forces teams work with them. And those are viewed very highly as well.
The army, by and large, a professional force, a national force, again, by and large, and performing credibly in a number of areas. And in many cases literally by themselves already, regardless of their operational readiness assessment. Again, that does not hold up the provincial Iraqi control process completely. It is a factor in it. But in many cases those forces are doing quite well.
And then it goes all the way down to, as you heard from General- retired Jones' commission, concerns about the sectarian tendencies of some elements still in the national police. And we continue to have concerns about several of the units there.
Again, have raised those to the prime minister. Those -- and the minister of interior, really, who is grappling with this issue and working their way through the change-out of leaders, the retraining of a number of the organizations, and now even bringing in the Italian Carabinieri to train some of them.
At some point, there may be a point at which some of those units will have to be disestablished. That is certainly not where Iraq wants to go right now, given just the sheer need for forces and for boots on the ground in a host of different areas, which is one reason why they're expanding so rapidly.
So, again, it runs the gamut, all the way, and there is a substantial effort ongoing to improve the leader development in the Iraqi security forces, to build the institutional structures that are, frankly, very hard to build, of military academies, junior and senior staff colleges, war colleges.
And these may not sound all that exciting, but they are the types of institutional assets that have made our own Army and Marine Corps and other services the truly professional forces that they are.
And it takes that level of investment. And that is ongoing. But, again, it is something that does take time. It just doesn't spring up out of the desert floor with infrastructure and structures and all the support for it. But that is ongoing.
THUNE: The first time I met with you was in Iraq, I think back in, like, February of 2004 when you were leading the -- or 2005, I should say, when you were leading the training mission there. And I think you talked about the need to build leadership capacity within the Iraqi security forces.
PETRAEUS: That's right.
THUNE: But to me, this doesn't work until that really happens. Is that happening? Is that...
PETRAEUS: It is happening. But, frankly, some of this took a step backward, in some cases, a substantial step backward, during the height of the sectarian violence, when certain units literally were taken over by sectarian interests and became part of the problem instead of part of the solution.
And retrieving some of those units is still ongoing in some cases. And, again, of course, a big part of that had to be to reduce the level of sectarian violence and threats and so forth so that these individuals didn't feel as if they had to side with one or the other, but could be truly professional off-commissioned or noncommissioned officers.
And that is something, again, that Prime Minister Maliki is very much concerned about confronting and dealing with -- and in fact, as I mentioned earlier, replacing, wholesale, the facility protection security force that guarded the medical city.
So there are numerous challenges out there like that, but there are also just dozens and dozens of army battalions and special operations units, in particular, that are doing very credible work and very much going after the enemy.
I mentioned the example of the unit in Mosul that killed the emir of Mosul with its own intelligence. In fact, it was actually the intelligence officer who we believe was the one that fired the shot that did kill this individual when there was a confrontation.
THUNE: Well, I know they -- that they prevented some attacks in Mosul, they have acted rapidly in restoring security in Karbala. They've had some successes. And I guess my question is, if and when the Iraqi security forces are ready to take responsibility for the security of Iraq, if that happens before the political process has yielded a political solution, is our job done there?
PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, Senator, let me just...
THUNE: I mean, if they're not on the same track.
PETRAEUS: Sure. Let me just be clear that -- I mean, they have already taken over, again in...
THUNE: Some areas.
PETRAEUS: ... in these provinces that have transitioned to provincial Iraqi control, there are no coalition forces -- Maysan Province, Al Muthanna, Karbala, Najaf and some others. Karbala will go to provincial Iraqi control in about a month. And then there are others who are very much -- we -- certain areas where we still have to be in the lead.
Again, we can hand off as long as that local situation is sufficiently connected to Baghdad to enable us to do that. So -- and that's what we have done, again, in a number of cases, regardless of the fact that -- that there may not be the agreement on the laws that we see as so important to ultimate national reconciliation.
But the fact is, there is a Ministry of Defense, there's a Ministry of Interior, there are varying degrees of functionality in different areas and, certainly, we're still having to help a great deal in the logistical arena, especially, because that's just proven very difficult.
THUNE: And I understand that, and I know we've made headway and I know that there are areas that are now totally under the control of the Iraqi security forces and in some cases were in the lead and they're supporting -- or they're in the lead and we're supporting.
But I guess the bigger question is: Is the mission complete when they can take over the fight even if the political component -- if we haven't gotten some Western-style democracy imposed in terms of a political solution there? Are we done? I mean, is that where -- can we say mission accomplished and...
PETRAEUS: Again, you know, it depends on how far along you are. I mean, I think we obviously have to have some degree of confidence that it wouldn't unravel. So, again, I think that you have to ask, where are we?
I mean there is national level leadership and direction at this point. It does exist. Prime Minister Maliki is the commander in chief. He does issue orders.
You know, another very important case was the celebration of the seventh imam commemoration in Baghdad. This is one of the holiest Shia celebrations. It focuses on a shrine in Kadhimiya in north central Baghdad. That's the one that you'll recall -- I believe it was in 2005 -- where there were nearly 1,000 of the pilgrims that were killed when there was a stampede due to either rumor of action or possibly actually enemy action.
The other two years around that there have been dozens of Iraqis killed. This particular year, the Iraqi Baghdad operational command oversaw the operation. The ministry's very much invested in it. It involved not just army and police, but also emergency service, transportation ministry, a whole host of other ministries that all would be involved in this. And to our knowledge there was not a death caused by enemy action, which is really a fairly extraordinary accomplishment.
THUNE: Well, again, we -- my time has expired as well -- but many of us have concerned about some of the national interests that you've articulated with regard to our efforts there, particularly the possibility of an Iranian-supported Shia state that would exercise more influence and, obviously, put not only that region but, I believe, our country at risk, as well.
And we thank you for the efforts that you're making, and encourage you. There are a lot of us who want -- are cheering for you, hope you succeed.
You've been exposed to a political dimension of the debate that occurs here in Washington, in the last few days that -- on a level that's regrettable. But notwithstanding that, I think the majority of Americans and a lot of us up here want to see you succeed.
So thanks again for your service.
LEVIN: Thank you. Senator Pryor?
PRYOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to start, if I could, with a question for both of you. And that is, after two days on Capitol Hill, are you two ready to get back to Baghdad?
CROCKER: Baghdad's never looked so good, Senator.
SEN. MARK PRYOR, D-ARK.: No, seriously, I have a couple of questions for you, General Petraeus, about the slides that you showed earlier. And one is just a real basic question.
And that is, on Slide number five, which is the caches found and cleared that you had, I just had a quick question, in that I remember, in the early days of us being in Iraq, we found a lot of caches that were former Saddam Hussein caches.
I look at January to September '07, you know, some big numbers there. Are these weapons old Saddam weapons or are they new weapons?
PETRAEUS: They're a mix, Senator. And now they often include something called HME, which is homemade explosives, which is a mix of fertilizer and nitric acid that is mixed up and often put in -- sometimes in five-gallon, or even as much as 55-gallon drums.
But again, it runs the gamut. It includes, in some cases, weapons that clearly are traced back to Iran, in terms of certain rockets, the explosively formed projectiles, and some mortars, two items that certainly may have come from weapons storage sites or have come in from other countries, over time.
I assume you're seeing a fairly healthy mix of Iranian weapons, caches?
Again, there are certain ones that are signature weapons, without question, the EFPs, the rockets, mortars.
The rest is -- it's just hard to tell where it came from.
PRYOR: I understand. OK.
Let me ask about the second graph I wanted to ask about, and that's your Iraqi security forces capability, slide number 12. Down on the bottom is the -- in most cases the shortest part of the bar graph where they're fully independent forces and then you see this large yellow band on top. I assume one of the fundamentals that you're talking about here in your report, this week in Washington, is you're trying to have a yellow to green policy.
You're trying to turn these -- this yellow area into green areas. Is that fair to say?
PETRAEUS: It is and candidly it is proving very difficult. Because the requirements to be green in terms -- they can get the strength up, that is not really an issue now. They're starting to -- I think strength for most Iraqi army units is, really, quite good and it is climbing.
The challenge is the fill of noncommission and commission officers. And as they number of units grows, as the take casualties and tough combat, they're very challenged to find those experienced soldiers who can step into those positions. They just don't have a large pool of that.
PRYOR: Well, that is...
And that's a limiting factor. Also, the equipment, again, when they take losses they do not have a good resupply and that's fairly absolute. So if you don't have a certain mix of equipment you're just not going to be ORA one. The truth is it doesn't mean that you may not be conducting independent operations. This is very important because it is something we work to.
Obviously, we want to get them the right mix of equipment, we want to help them develop the leaders, the strength, again, and so forth. And to fix their logistical systems. But the fact that they're not ORA one, does not mean they are not operating independently. And again, there are places where that actually happened.
PRYOR: Well, that's one of the things that concerns me. Is really there isn't a real clear trend that the green is going up...
PETRAEUS: No, I...
PRYOR: ..and the yellow is going.
PETRAEUS: It's a tough standard to meet, especially when you're in combat losing soldiers, equipment, and leaders, and don't have a great logistical support structure.
And, candidly, this is something that Senator Levin and Senator Warner are helping us with. They have put a lot of stock into Foreign Military Sales, and we have to come through for them.
And we talked to Senator Levin about that, to the chairman and to Senator Warner, when he was there. We really have to take this on. This cannot be a peacetime approach to Foreign Military Sales.
I mentioned they've put about, I think it's $1.6 billion already into it. It could be that much and a bit more by the end of the year. But we have to come through for them. And it can't be business as usual. It has to be really moved very quickly.
PRYOR: And so, I guess it's hard to say how long it will take you to go from yellow to green, but you're trying to get there as quickly...
PETRAEUS: We are trying get there. You can see -- I mean, they took steps backwards because, again, of the hard fighting to get this -- to deal with the sectarian violence and then to get it down. And that's the -- that's the unknown, unfortunately, is just what kind of losses will they take? What kind of equipment will they lose?
PRYOR: Let me change the question here, if I can, General Petraeus. Let me just see if you agree with this. First, I'd say our military efforts in Iraq are very important. And our men and women in uniform in Iraq are doing an outstanding job in some very difficult circumstances. Would you agree with that?
PETRAEUS: Certainly. Yes, sir.
PRYOR: But our military efforts are only part of the solution there. We must work very hard on four broad fronts -- diplomatic, economic, military and political. Would you agree with that?
PETRAEUS: In fact, those are the lines of operation, if you will, the (inaudible) in our joint campaign plan. There is an MNF- I/embassy joint campaign plan. And, in fact, those are the lines of operations in it.
PRYOR: Ambassador Crocker, do you agree with that as well, that we need a broad effort, not just on military, but also on diplomatic, economic and political?
PRYOR: And my fundamental concern with the surge strategy is that if we don't have the diplomatic, the economic and the political efforts and progress in place, then the surge, I'm afraid, won't make a long-term difference in Iraq. So that's a concern I have.
In August all of us went home to our home states, and I spent all month in Arkansas, and my sense of Arkansas' general public, their view of Iraq would be this.
First, they're very patriotic.
Second, they want to support -- they're going to support the war- fighter regardless, no questions asked.
Third, I'd say, is they want for the U.S. to leave Iraq in a better condition than what we found it. And they also need some assurance that the sacrifice we're making, that this country's making is worth it. And they need that assurance from the president, first and foremost, and from the Congress and from you all.
But I'll say this, too, that there's a sense with people I talked to back home is that the goal posts keep moving in Iraq. And I do have a concern about the report and the stuff that we're hearing today, is that is the goal posts have moved again.
You know, we talked about the surge initially being maybe six months and now it looks like it may be a year-plus before we get back down to the surge -- the pre-surge numbers.
So I think people want to support what we're doing there, but they need some assurance on it, and they also desperately want to make sure that when we leave Iraq we leave it in a better condition than what we found it.
And the last thing that I had, Mr. Chairman, is a number of us, 15 of us in the Senate have been working on a bill to try to implement the Iraq Study Group recommendations. I just want to leave a copy of this bill with you all. It's an effort in working with the Iraq Study Group and bipartisan group of senators, 15 of us, eight -- I believe it's eight Democrats, seven Republicans. From my standpoint it's really the only truly broad-based bipartisan bill in the Congress, in the House or Senate.
And I know we talk about needing political consensus in Baghdad, which we do, but we also need it in Washington, D.C. You all have had a taste of that this week.
So I'm going to leave this with you and I'd love to get your comments, either from you or your staffs at some point in the very near future.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Pryor.
MARTINEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Gentlemen, thank you very much. I appreciate you hosting me in Baghdad a few days ago. I got an advance, I think, of what we have seen you report. And I want to tell you that between what I heard from you and also what I was able to perceive by visiting several places and talking to our troops, that I have a very positive view of your report. And I am astonished that some may be so invested in failure that they cannot see the very positive signs that you're bringing to us.
I had the privilege of visiting Patrol Base Murray (ph), south of Baghdad. And I saw there myself -- this is the last brigade to surge. They've been there since late May or early June. They have been in the fight in a very tough neighborhood south of Baghdad.
SEN. MEL MARTINEZ, R-FLA.: And they have been rooting out Al Qaida. And I talked to Iraqis there who are so thankful that our troops were there, that are working with them in partnership.
And the enthusiasm that I saw from our men and women in uniform, there performing admirably, sustaining some difficult losses of their own troops, is what leads me to think that this strategy is succeeding in the neighborhoods where it matters, and turning the situation around.
So I, while I understand the difficulties ahead and the difficulties that we've had in the past, I must say that I am encouraged by what I saw there and by what you report to us here as well. I know we've been talking about this for, now, a long, long time.
But I wonder if you would, for me, General, define for me who it is that our enemy is in Iraq. Who are we fighting?
PETRAEUS: Well, what I've said -- actually, if I could just point out, first, you'll be heartened to hear that the Al Qaeda in the area or Arab Jabour was killed in the last several days, as well.
And, as you know, that's in the Arab Jabour area there. And that was in an area that was a sanctuary for Al Qaida, southeast of Baghdad, and an area in which operations are planned, set up, and then run into Baghdad. So it is a significant accomplishment.
MARTINEZ: It's, kind of, like the conduit to Baghdad?
PETRAEUS: Yes, sir.
Sir, I use the term that the enemy, the wolf closest to the sled is Al Qaida-Iraq because it is the enemy that has, in the past, ignited the enormous escalation in ethno-sectarian violence by some of its actions, the bombing in February 2006 of the Golden Dome Mosque foremost among those, and the enemy that causes the most horrific casualties, the most sensational attacks, and, again, has an effect, at times, or tries to have an effect of pouring gas on burning embers wherever they can find them.
They're the ones responsible, of course, for the bombings of the poor Yazidi villages several weeks back, of some Turkomen villages, prior to that, south of Kirkuk, and trying all the time, again, to conduct more of those types of attacks.
Beyond that, certainly, the militia extremists supported by Iran are very much a growing concern.
I mentioned earlier we've learned a great deal about them after capturing the head of the special groups in the Lebanese Hezbollah, an operative who was supporting them with Iran, and a number of others, over time -- quite a few brigade commanders in that particular structure.
And, again, the impact that they have is very significant because it can eat at neighborhoods. In many respects, it is the militia extremists, at this point, in Baghdad, that are cause of the ethno- sectarian violence, more so than are Al Qaida or any other Sunni extremist affiliates.
MARTINEZ: And slide number 10, in my view, gives a very graphic portrayal of the success that you had against Al Qaida Iraq, and we can add to this chart, now, the Amir that you just mentioned from my old friends at patrol base Murray -- God bless them.
PETRAEUS: Sir, you can. And, again, that is significant success against Al Qaida. As I mentioned, they're off balance. We're in the pursuit-mode against them, certainly in many, many more places than we were before and had to take some tough casualties to go into areas that they had controlled before -- Baqouba and a variety of Baghdad neighborhoods, Arab Jabour, and other locations.
Beyond that, I think the other enemies are less kinetic, but just more, the challenges of institutions, again, that just aren't fully functioning. Certainly, residual sectarian influences, and even the degree of corruption that is still in certain elements in Iraq. And those present big challenges, as do a variety of these different issues that we have to deal with in trying to stand up the security forces in getting their logistical systems working, getting the institutional structures established, getting the sectarian activities out and so forth.
But that lays out, I think, the major challenges, the two big ones, again, being Al Qaida and its affiliates. And there are still certainly Sunni insurgents out there loosely affiliated, or not, in some cases, and then the Shia militia extremists who have caused such challenges in recent months.
MARTINEZ: On your -- thank you, sir. That -- on your chart 13, as you talk about the stepping, you also are talking about mission shift. Do you have any -- first of all, what would what the shift be? You mentioned, at the bottom, leading to partner to overwatch.
Would you define those terms? And then also, is there any way to forecast when the shifting mission might also kick in? Because I presume that would have some impact on the level of casualties that our own forces sustain.
PETRAEUS: Sir, it already has. As I've mentioned, we certainly have a number of places where brigades or the majority of brigades are in the lead.
But there are other cases where we are very much in partnering or have already moved to some form of tactical or operational overwatch. We're not located with that unit. We're away from it, and what we provide is a quick reaction force, perhaps some other combat enablers as required in a pinch.
The way this will happen is there will actually be an entire brigade, I don't think, will go from, say, leading to partnering and then partnering to tactical overwatch, because the brigades are fairly dispersed.
There will be units within a brigade that may actually already be at a partnering or tactical overwatch situation, where others may still be not as far along-- depending on, again, the units with which they are working.
And so, it is something we want move as rapidly as we can, but, again, we don't want to, again, rush to failure.
Ambassador Crocker, I had -- I just wanted to comment that I think the political communique is an important consideration and may be a foretelling.
I know how we legislate here sometimes. Sometimes it takes people getting in a room, agreeing on something and then ultimately you'll see it become a bill and pass.
If you could, just quickly, my time is up, but I would like to hear from you, Ambassador, as to -- we've talked a lot about the grim realities of a precipitous withdrawal.
What is the upside? What is the potential if we were to just succeed in Iraq in the way that I think is envisioned and possible? What could be the upside potential for Iraq and the region, if you could do it just briefly, because my time has expired?
LEVIN: Please be brief, because we have three more questioners. And we're going to have votes, I think, at 7:00.
CROCKER: Yes, sir. It would be a fundamental change in the region.
Because Iraq for decades has been a source of instability and threat in the region and beyond to Iran, to the gulf states, to Syria.
So this would be almost an unprecedented situation -- certainly, for the last three plus decades; something we hadn't seen. And I guess I'd just leave you with that. I wouldn't try to go beyond that. Again, my weak imagination fails me.
But it would be a situation we have not seen. An Iraq that is a source of stability, rather than instability and threat. It -- literally, something we have not seen since 1967.
MARTINEZ: Thank you, sir.
LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Martinez.
SEN. JIM WEBB, D-VA.: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Gentlemen, welcome to mile 25. I have been with you all the way, but you have been running a lot harder than I have.
I would like to make just to two comments about some of the testimony that preceded me and then try to get two questions.
First, to echo something that Senator Clinton said, as a result of a question that was posed by Senator McCain, I think it's important to point out for the historical record that the situation in Al Anbar did turn around before the surge began. I mentioned this in the Committee on Foreign Relations, but I think it's important to mention it here.
Also, it is a matter of, on the one hand, personal loyalty. My son is an infantry Marine; was in the 1st battalion, 6th Marines, and through that period the last four months of last year, particular, they were knocking back Ramadi block by block and street by street.
I think, number one, they deserve credit. Number two, you don't want your staff to have to throw hands with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines if somebody was trying to take credit for what they did.
The second is when we talk about consequences of failure, Ambassador, I, you know, sadly point out that so many of these consequences were people such as myself, General Zinni, General Scowcroft, were trying to point out as the predictable consequences of an invasions. We have basically scrambled the egg here and we're all struggling to try to find a way to bring the United States out of this in a way that will bring further stability to the region. But I think it's fair to point that out.
And I want to renew briefly, General Petraeus, my comments that I began at the end of the Foreign Relations Committee hearing about this dwell time situation.
You can see how divided we still are here in trying to come to grips with a policy. And as we continue this debate, I just very strongly believe that we need to put some sort of a safety net under our troops.
The one inarguable result of this policy has been the disruption of the rotational cycles of deployment, when we accelerated the deployment cycles.
And the policy has resulted in extended tours, 15-month deployments, and also an acceleration of other situations like stop- loss -- and on the Marine Corps side the going into the pool of the IRR in a way that they have not done in previous years.
And on a personal note, my number two daughter's long-time boyfriend, seven years, actually when I was an embedded journalist in Afghanistan in '04, I was able to get up to where his unit was, one of the nine stops that I made, did four years in the Marine Corps, infantry (inaudible), two tours in Afghanistan, out a year and a half, finally got a good job, last Friday he gets the news he's been recalled, he's going back to Iraq.
This is the kind of situation that people up here really aren't seeing because of the bifurcation that began back in Vietnam between the people who are making policy and the people whop are carrying it out, quite frankly. And I'm really glad to see so many members of this committee have been able to go on a CODEL and come over, and even if it's just a brief period of time, see what the United States military looks like, even see what a combat environment looks like.
But we need some advocates up here for a situation that is really having a dramatic impact on the men and women who are having to go through these repeated cycles.
I was out of the room when Senator Nelson of Florida asked about this. I am told, General, that he -- your response to him was that this is more a matter for a chief of staff of the Army in terms of dwell time. Is that correct?
PETRAEUS: Senator, I, again, am very concerned about the strain on and sacrifice of our soldiers. Obviously what a commander in the field wants is soldiers who have had maximum time between deployments. They'll obviously perform better, they'll have had more time to prepare presumably and be ready to go in a way -- rejuvenated in a way that they would not if it has been a shorter dwell time.
So, again, I very much want that, and I stated that, I believe, at that time; I certainly did earlier today.
What I meant by that is, again, I'm just not any -- been away from the Army sufficiently that I just don't have a feel for what that kind of policy would mean to the Army. It has a responsibility as a force provider. And I, again, don't know what that would do in that sense to the Army. And that's why I said it's just one I think I have to defer to the chief of staff of the Army having said that I'd love to, again, have some experience in this myself in the past six years, I think it's coming up on four of those six.
So I am all for maximum dwell time.
WEBB: Right. Well, I think I related to you a conversation I had had with the chief of staff Army where, when the tours went to 15 months, where his comment to me was that he is feeding the strategy.
So somewhere in here we need to find a balance. And that's the reason I introduced the amendment that I did. There are times, perhaps, when the Congress needs to weigh in and kind of be a referee.
The other question I wanted to be able to get in with the ambassador, it's something that I've thought a lot about and I would like to get your perceptions on.
I was a journalist in Beirut in the 1980s. You spent a long time there. I spent some time there, not in any way the sort that you did.
But I see a lot of similarities in the situation. From the Lebanon in the 1980's and the Iraq of today, although Iraq is sort of macrocosmic. But with the notion of a weak central government that can't get its feet on the ground and very strong-arm militias around that are not going to obey the edicts that come out of them. We had a, you know, a very bad situation there. We did lead.
What do you draw from this, in terms of how we're trying to fix the situation in Iraq?
CROCKER: Well, it's a great question, Senator, and certainly something that preoccupied my mind. I spent a total of six years in Lebanon, two different tours. And neither of them at really great times, given levels of violence.
You don't want to overstate the similarities, or at least I certainly don't. Iraq is a -- you know, a vastly bigger country, substantially greater strategic importance, I would argue. There are some other important differences, too, just in terms of internal conditions, that Lebanon was, without question, an all-out civil war in the late '70s, early '80s.
The army, as you recall, split and disintegrated. With all of the problems in Iraq, we're not seeing something to that level. In fact, it's kind of the opposite. Security forces actually expanding and improving, even as they're engaged in a fight and many aspects of that fight against other Iraqis. But they're hanging together.
One element of similarity that we have to keep in mind, because our adversaries most certainly are, and that is the roles of Iran and Syria. Iran and Syria came together, as you recall, to engage in Lebanon in the early '80s. They worked together to create Hezbollah in 1982, for example.
And they're still working together in Lebanon. Damascus airport, just as it channels foreign fighters into Iraq, also serves as a main supply hub for supplies going to Hezbollah from Iran.
So we need to look at it in those terms, because, certainly, in Tehran and Damascus, the coordination and the cooperation that they have brought to bear in Lebanon, in somewhat different ways they're also bringing to bear in Iraq.
WEBB: Well, my time is up. And in 30 seconds, one event that sticks in my mind, and I was there when it happened, was when the United States picked a side, even though it was the Lebanese army -- when we supported the Lebanese army in the Battle of Sug el Gharb with naval guns, then all of the other factions decided that we were fair game. And that could be argued that that led to the destruction of the building at the airport and the deaths of 241 Marines.
It's very difficult when you get involved in a five-sided argument.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Webb.
CORKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I want to thank you both. I know we began together nine and a half hours ago in Foreign Relations. And I want to thank you for your tone, your directness, and certainly, again, for your service. And certainly I've appreciated the meetings we've had in Iraq itself.
Earlier this week, or I guess last week, General Jones testified about some border issues. And four, five or six months ago, General McCaffrey had been in here, talking about equipment issues and getting the Iraqis with the type of equipment they need to carry out their functions.
One of the things that was discussed is a lack of equipment at the border itself where Iraqis, you know, checking vehicles that are coming and going are going through those by hand. They don't have forklifts, they don't have the basic equipment, if you will, to really leverage our efforts, if you will, to make sure that munitions and other types of destructive gear would be coming into our country.
And, General Petraeus, I wonder if you might comment on that or anything that may be happening in that regard to alter that.
PETRAEUS: Well, Senator, it's a great question, because what we want to do is to focus on the ports of entry and to improve the equipment at those locations, for example, to ensure that everyone has a back scatter X-ray that can look at these kinds of cargoes without having to unload them, biometric devices, the PISCES system and some others, and also have transition teams out there, overseeing them and making sure that, in fact, we're helping the Iraqis to do the right thing, if you will, at those border port points of entry.
It is hugely important, on the Syrian border, again, to try to cut down on the flow of foreign fighters.
Sometimes some of them, undoubtedly, just drive in. And that's something that we have to try to interdict, obviously, at those ports of entry.
And then, on the Iranian side, what we want to do, similar, and also to have some additional back-stop to that on some of the key routes that lead to Baghdad so that, again, we can interdict more of the arms and ammunition that come in from Iran.
CORKER: And that's something that's urgently being pursued, the upgrade...
PETRAEUS: It is, indeed. Yes, sir. In fact, there's a whole -- you know, if it's important to the military -- there's a set of slides, and they have stoplights and we have that for the ports of entry, in particular.
CORKER: I want to thank you for the exemplary model you all set up, where, I think you all have a common wall between your offices and work together on a daily basis, both diplomatically and militarily, to achieve our goals there.
And I know there's a, it seems to me, an evolving thing that we focus on. We focus on diplomacy a great deal. Three or four months ago, it was upgrading of troops. And obviously, and for good reason, it's been the lack of the central government's progress, politically, certainly at this point in time.
Ambassador Crocker, talk to us about the nature of the conversations that you have privately, if you will, with the prime minister, with the president and deputy presidents, just about the fact that those things are not happening that need to happen, certainly, to create the top-down reconciliation that Senator Warner was referring to.
Well, in the course of the last couple of months, we've had an extensive and intensive series of discussions with all of the Iraqi leadership, as part of the effort they were making to come together and to work on both specific substantive issues and to work on processes.
And that's what led to the communique, at the end of August, in which they announced agreements on several areas, among the five principal leaders of Iraq.
What may be more important, in the long run, than the substantive achievements on de-Baathification reform, provincial powers, detainee issues, and how to handle armed groups that no longer want to fight against the coalition or the central government -- what may be even more important than that was the announcments that the five made that they would continue to work together both at their level through a mechanism involving the president, the two vice presidents and the prime minister, but also at a preparatory level where their deputies would continue to meet as they did for a number of weeks during the summer to wrestle with the hard issues of renconciliation and to try to hammer out issues to the point where the leadership could effectively deal with them.
And again, that involved, you know, multiple meetings on the part of me and my staff with, again, all of Iraq's leaders as they moved toward this. One other outcome, incidentally, of that meeting was a statement, a declaration by the five that they wanted to reach an agreement with the United States on a long-term strategic partnership.
And I find that noteworthy, again, particularly in light of the reports that Iraqis want us out, that these five individuals who all have constituencies and whose constituencies are the main communities of Iraq, Shia, Sunni and Kurd, all wanted that in the communicae. So, you know, these are the kinds of things we're engaged on on a daily basis.
We worked very closely, again, with the combined leadership to ensure that the Anbar development forum that we talked about a little bit earlier that took place on the 5th of September, that the central government came forward with the kinds of financial support and with the presence in Anbar of its Shia and Kurdish, as well as Sunni leadership, that they followed through on that commitment. Because that, too, is an important part of reconciliation.
So, it's no exaggeration, sir, to say that in the course of the week, I will be engaged, if not on a daily basis, something close to it, again, with all of Iraq's principal leaders. And one of the good things is I don't have to do it by myself. I've got this gentleman here, General Petraeus who is very much a part of that.
CROCKER: When there are meetings with the prime minister, we normally go together. And we'll, depending on the issues, we'll even adjust our seating. So I'll go through an agenda and then move over and General Petraeus will take forward his.
I don't know if Senator McCaskill is coming back. My guess is she is...
WARNER: She is to come and then we're going to conclude the hearing.
CORKER: Let me just end my day with you on the note I guess we started with, and that is in both of your estimations, do you believe that Iraqis want to be Iraqis?
PETRAEUS: Yes, I definitely do, Senator. And I think the interesting reflection of that was when the Iraqi soccer team won the Asian Cup championship. And even though, horrifically and tragically, when they won the semifinal, a suicide vest bomber had caused casualties in one of the celebrations, there was nothing keeping them off the streets for that.
And it was Sunni, Shia, Kurd. Everyone was proud to an Iraqi that day. There is an Iraqi identity. And I think it's really quite a strong one.
CROCKER: I would agree with that, Senator. Iraqi identity is deeply felt and there is a strong sense that it's something that they've literally had to fight for over the years. The eight-year war with Iran I think really intensified that sense of Iraqi identity among both Arab Sunnis and Shia.
With respect to the Kurds, it's been significant to me and encouraging how Kurdish political leaders have clearly indicated their interest in Iraq as a whole. The Iraqi president, of course, is Kurdish, as is Iraq's foreign minister.
And they have been very effective. The foreign minister has been a very effective spokesman for Iraq in dealing with the international community, and the president a very constructive force in trying to bring about elements of reconciliation within the country, as is the deputy prime minister who oversees economic affairs and who was out in Anbar with us on the 5th of September.
So for all of the strains, violence, tension and history, I think there is a strong sense of Iraqi identity.
LEVIN: Thank you, Senator.
CORKER: I know my time is up. I want to say to both of you, I have a deep respect for the service you provide. And I want to thank you for that and also for your time, patience and directness today.
CROCKER: Thank you, sir.
PETRAEUS: Thank you, sir.
WARNER: Gentlemen, you have had an extraordinary performance, not only in the content of your testimony, but your endurance throughout this day.
Senator Levin will be back momentarily to conclude the hearing. He's asked that I cover a few points here, which we feel should be put into the record.
And if Senator McCaskill returns, she'll have her time and that will conclude the hearing.
So if you bear with me a minute, I'll complete.
We just got started, Carl.
That last comment of yours, Mr. Ambassador, indicating what the group of four, five or whatever it's referred to, would that agreement of the U.S. forces be a status of forces type agreement?
CROCKER: It is, obviously, still to be determined. But, yes, it could be that.
WARNER: I think it's important that we do it. That's a well- recognized instrument between nations in this situation.
Secondly, I did a little research, which I think is quite interesting. Almost five years ago, I and three other senators, there were four of us who worked on Public Law 107243, October 16, 2002, entitled Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution.
And in it, on Section 2, makes a number of references to one of the reasons we went in on this invasion. And that is that the Congress of the United States supports the effort by the president to strictly enforce the United Nations' Security Council resolutions. The president is authorized to use armed forces as he determines to be necessary in order to, one, defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and, two, enforce all relevant United Nations' Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.
It's an interesting piece of history.
It brings me to the question: What role do you per see the United Nations playing in the future, Mr. Ambassador?
CROCKER: Well, it's an excellent question, particularly in light of the new Security Council resolution, Resolution 1770, that establishes a significantly expanded mandate for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq. New mandates for UNAMI include facilitating national dialogue and political...
WARNER: Let me interrupt you to say that you can finish your answer for the record on this question, but I judge that you're somewhat optimistic that they will take a stronger role, particularly, as it may be, with the bordering countries to get their involvement in a positive way.
Would that be correct?
CROCKER: That is correct. That is the clear intention of the secretary general.
WARNER: Then amplify that in the record.
The next question I have is the Jones report, or the report done by the independent commission. I thought it was a very satisfactory contribution.
Do you agree with that?
PETRAEUS: I do, sir.
WARNER: Mr. Ambassador?
CROCKER: Yes, I do.
WARNER: One provision in there, page 129, Circumstances at the moment may continue to present the opportunity for considering a shift in the disposition and employment of our forces. This could be characterized as a transition to a, quote, 'strategic overwatch,' end quote, posture.
Such a strategy would include placing increasing responsibilities for internal security on the Iraqi forces, especially in urban areas. Coalition forces could be retasked to better ensure the territorial defense, that's the border of Iraq, and increasingly concentrating on the eastern and western borders and the active defense of the critical infrastructure is essential to Iraq -- namely their water, their power, their electricity and so forth.
Now, I judge in your comments and testimony, you took sort of a reference to that. But I judged from what you said that there could be a point in time when that type of transition might well be employed by the forces under your command.
Is that correct, General?
PETRAEUS: Sir, it is certainly possible. I mean, we want to get to an overwatch situation. Now where the forces deploy to or, you know, whether they go home or take on those other missions, I think is something that we need to look at very hard.
WARNER: Lastly, General, there has been a good deal of comment in the press -- I don't -- I can't ascribe the accuracy -- that various segments of the chain of command, president, Security Council, chairman of the joint chiefs, Admiral Fallon, yourself attest to different viewpoints.
I was privileged to have many years of experience in the Pentagon and here on this committee, I think that's healthy, that the different views were assessed and will eventually be presented to the president.
But I assume that you feel -- and I think you've said this for the record -- that you did work within the chain of the command, that you did listen to your colleagues in the chairman of the JCS, members of the JCS and others, as well as Admiral Fallon. And all of it was brought to bear on the testimony you've given us today.
PETRAEUS: Sir, that's correct. Actually, Secretary Gates really I think sort of shepherded quite a process that took place, with a number of different briefings to the chairman, to the secretary, to the Joint Chiefs and eventually to the president.
And I have been told that there is support for what I have recommended. Certainly, Admiral Fallon has assured me of that, and the chairman has and the secretary.
WARNER: And that will be brought to the president as he prepares to...
PETRAEUS: That is correct, sir. In fact, the Chiefs had a session separately with him; in fact, the day after I briefed him, I believe was the chronology.
WARNER: And he had a session when he visited your...
PETRAEUS: Sir, we also had that session. I gave my recommendations actually several days prior to that. And then there was the additional session in Anbar province as well.
WARNER: Did this trip back provide any opportunity for further work in that area?
PETRAEUS: Sir, I have not talked to the president at all since I have been back. And my conversation with the secretary merely was good luck. And I have talked to Admiral Fallon on several occasions, and basically, he just assured me that he supports the recommendations that I have put forward.
WARNER: Thank you.
LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Warner.
MCCASKILL: Thank you.
WARNER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, D-MO.L: It's a much quieter and smaller room than when we began. And I'd like to point out what is kind of obvious about me being the last questioner, and that is how I got here.
I ran against an incumbent in the United States Senate who was 100 percent supportive of the president's policies in Iraq, had never really asked a tough question during his time on this committee of any of the men and women who sat at that table justifying why we were going and what was happening when we were there.
So as our democracy works, the people of my state made a decision: whether or not they wanted to send him back to Washington to continue to support the policy or whether they wanted someone different.
And I'm blessed. They decided they wanted someone different. And I'm here.
And so, I, too, want to echo everyone's comments about our respect for you and the work you do. But I also feel a mandate from my election to disagree and to challenge and to ask the kind of questions that I think most Americans want asked right now.
The benchmarks came to this discussion by virtue of the commander in chief. It was the commander in chief that gave a speech in January that said we will judge the success of this strategy by the benchmarks.
And we have had a lot of discussion today about the benchmarks and bottom up, top down, and I don't want to repeat anything that's been done.
But I went back and read the testimony, General Petraeus, when you were confirmed, and you had an exchange of questions and answer with Senator Levin about those benchmarks and about the leverage we could use. And there was discussion about what could we use as leverage. And there was discussion about, from you, that we could withhold things, we could withhold our support, we could provide support.
I guess my first question to you, and if you could answer it very briefly I would appreciate it, what leverage do we have? Because clearly it does not appear to be working. And why is it not obvious to the American people that we're exercising any of the leverage that we have?
This just appears that we've got to take on faith that this last date is not 2030 or 2025 or 2040. And that's where I think my frustration lies, is I see no effective use of leverage to force the Iraqis to come back from vacation.
Either of you -- leverage that we can use?
CROCKER: Senator, we clearly do have leverage and we use it.
At the same time, national reconciliation, I think, by definition, is not something that can be forced from outside.
Just by, again, by definition, it means people in conflict agreeing to work through differences and to come together. So, you know, we can facilitate; we can pressure, to some degree, but ultimately, national reconciliation has to be an Iraqi process.
I have expressed my view that, to state to Iraqis that, if they don't do A, B, C, for example, on reconciliation, that we are then going to withdraw forces, has a very high risk of being counterproductive.
It will cause them to be less likely to compromise, rather than more. So I think we've got to be very careful about that.
I wish there were simple answers. I wish there were clear-cut things that we could do to get them to do the things that result in national reconciliation. But there aren't.
It is, in my experience -- and I've been there about six months now -- it is a long, slow, hard grind that may now become easier because of the effects of the surge in reducing violence.
Because I am convinced that it is only when violence comes down and shows every indication of staying down that you create the climate in which hard compromises, if not becoming easy, at least become possible.
PETRAEUS: Senator, I mentioned earlier -- I don't know if you were here -- but one time, in an earlier assignment, I did actually withhold support for an element in the major crimes unit in the ministry of interior after they were found to have been mistreating detainees.
We have looked at some of that type of action. And we have actually discussed this. And, at one point, we actually even prepared a letter with respect to something like that.
And at this point, we just haven't reached the point, literally, where we think that that would be more productive than less productive.
On the other hand, there are some carrots as well that can be used. For example, right now, the major general who oversees our detainee operations is working closely with the Sunni Arab vice president to try to facilitate the release of those Sunni Arabs who have been in the system, have been prepared for release -- guarantor pledges by individuals who we view as responsible, and a judge is participating in this -- to try to accelerate that process. That is one of their big concerns in the Sunni Arab community.
That has, actually, generated some positive responses, in terms of engagement with the national process. And so there are areas like that where we can, not just use stick, but occasionally use carrot as well.
And that's just one example of that. Although, obviously, we've got to find more examples to get them to come to grips with the really big issues.
MCCASKILL: I don't want to belabor the difference of opinion of the armed forces. I think they're doing a magnificent job.
I know that Senator Martinez talked about talking to the troops. When I was there in June, I had the opportunity to talk to a number of Missourians. And I got all different opinions, and some of them stuck in my mind.
But one I'll never forget and that was a young man telling me about the biggest problem they face. And that was one hour a day of electricity -- and what a terrible, difficult situation that was to get the confidence and the participation of the Iraqi people because of one hour a day electricity.
I said to him, if we pulled out -- if we began to pull out in a meaningful way, wouldn't it be chaos? And he looked me right in the eyes and said: Ma'am, this is chaos.
So that stuck with me and it probably always will.
I would like to close today on a subject matter we haven't talked about today, but it's one that is near and dear to my heart. And that is the money.
I spent most of my time in Iraq in June looking at contracting. My background is an auditor. I have yet to sense a feeling of urgency among the active military, among the folks at DOD about the way money has been spent in this conflict, particularly as we have dealt with privatization at a level we've never had privatization before in a contingent operation. We have privatized much more than we ever have, in terms of not just reconstruction but, obviously, in troop support and logistics.
I would certainly appreciate, briefly, if the chairman would indulge me at this point, your sense about that. I think that all of this is about choices and none of them are easy. But I do think people need to understand that one month -- one month -- the price tag for one month pays for health insurance for 800,000 American children.
That is a startling reality of what we're doing. And the president's going to ask us for another $50 billion of debt.
And we now are -- you know, we have borrowed most of the money for this conflict. And the strength of our military not only relies on the incredible leadership that we develop within our military and the brave and courageous acts of our military men and women, but it depends on the economic status of our nation and the strength and security of our economy.
And I would like briefly you all's reflection on the heartbreaking news that we had that even someone in the active military was involved in fraud and stealing money from the American people, the kind of contractor abuse, the kind of overspending we've seen, the kind of money that's been spent that we can't account for.
And what, if anything, is being done on a day-to-day basis to address the incredible amount of money that's being spent and a sense of urgency about making sure that every dime of it is spent wisely?
PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, Senator, a very important step is the support for the continuation of the special inspector general, the SIGIR in Iraq, which I think is very important and has proven very, very useful.
The formation of the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq I think over time has improved very much the process that is conducted over there. And the Iraqi First program initiative is also one that not only gets us in many cases lower costs and lower salaries, but gets the local people invested in our success as well.
Those are just a couple of initiatives that I would mention.
CROCKER: Certainly on the mission side, I would echo the importance of the special inspector general and the wisdom of the decision to continue that function. The inspector general, Stuart Bowen, and his staff -- he's been with this from the beginning. He's acquired a considerable amount of expertise and is, I think, extremely important in being an assurance to you and to us that resources are being used as wisely as possible and are accounted for in a comprehensive manner.
With respect to privatization, I know that your comment was in the military context, but it also applies...
CROCKER: ... on this side as well.
The reality is, for example, on the security function, much of our security, most of our security is provided by contractors.
It is overseen by diplomatic security officers, foreign service officers, but there is simply no way at all that the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security could ever have enough full-time personnel to staff a security function in Iraq.
There is no alternative, except through contracts. And I would have to say that the capability and courage of the individuals who provide security under contract is worthy of respect of all Americans.
One of Blackwater's helicopters went down yesterday, a hostile fire incident. Fortunately, no one killed in that accident, but over 30 of our contract security Americans have been killed keeping the rest of us safe.
So it is something that we've got to do, because we don't have enough people in the State Department to do this, but I think it's being done very well.
MCCASKILL: Well, I think privatization is the future. I just think we need to work harder at getting it right.
And I don't question that they are very brave and courageous people. I think most of them are former United States military. They learned at the right place. So I appreciate that, but I do think we have got a long way to go, in terms of the accountability piece on the privatization issue.
Thank you both very much. God bless you and congratulations.
PETRAEUS: Thank you, Senator.
MCCASKILL: I think, with the exception of the chairman has some questions, you're at the finish line.
LEVIN: We have one more question.
Thank you, Senator McCaskill.
And this goes to General Petraeus. I want to clarify something.
You've testified that the force reductions will continue beyond -- which I understand, means below -- the pre-surge level of 15 brigade combat teams that you recommend we reach by mid-July 2008. You've testified that you won't decide on the pace of those reductions until mid-March of 2008.
I understand, from your testimony, that when the pre-surge level of 15 combat brigade teams is reached in July of '08, that you intend to keep on with the troop reductions. The decision that you are reserving to mid-March is the pace of those continuing reductions.
Do I have it straight? Am I right?
PETRAEUS: You do, sir. Again, what I have recommended is making a recommendation in mid-March of the pace of the continued reductions at that time.
LEVIN: But it is your recommendation and intention that those reductions would keep on going after the 7/08 level of 15 combat brigade teams is reached.
PETRAEUS: That is correct. As I said, we will continue to...
LEVIN: Well, but I want to -- it's intended not just that you will in some future year, but you intend to continue those reductions at that point, reserving the pace of the reductions beyond...
LEVIN: ... 15 combat teams, reserving that decision to mid- March?
PETRAEUS: Recommendation. Yes, sir.
Your testimony, Ambassador Crocker, will be made part of the record. I did not say that. Thank you for your presentations, both of you, here today.
I think we all deeply appreciate it. I hope that appreciation to you and the men and women that you lead chime through here very loud and clear, because we all have that strong belief that you are, indeed, not only patriots, but that you are expending beyond the call of duty your own energies and your families' in leading the men and women under your command and under your leadership.
Thank you both. We will stand adjourned.
PETRAEUS: Thank you, Senator.
CROCKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.