Ranking House Committee Members Grill Crocker and Petraeus on U.S. Progress in Iraq

CQ Transcripts

Monday, September 10, 2007

REP. IKE SKELTON, D-MO. CHAIRMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, the hearing will come to order.

I think there may be a seating problem. I hope the staff can get that squared away in the next minute or two.

PROTESTOR: (OFF-MIKE)

SKELTON: And I will also say that we're going to have no disturbances in this room, and those that disturb are immediately asked to be escorted out.

Do that right now. Out they go.

We need to make a couple of housekeeping announcements. The acoustics are bad in this room, and we'll ask to have the audience as quiet as possible, because it's difficult to understand the questions and the answers from our witnesses.

As I mentioned before, no disturbances will be tolerated. And we mean that.

Remind members to turn their cell phones off, keep their BlackBerrys below the desk, because they interfere with the microphones.

We'll adhere strictly to the five-minute rule, with the exception of the chairmen and ranking members, which is customary.

Also, members should be advised at that 2:25 we will have a five- minute break for the witnesses and again at 4:25, a five-minute break.

And the members should also know that if it's necessary -- I doubt if it will be -- but if it's necessary to go into a classified session later, we have arranged Room 2118, in Rayburn, for this purpose.

SKELTON: However, as I said, I do not expect that.

So welcome to the joint meeting of the House Armed Service Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee for what may be the most important hearing of the year.

We have today the pleasure to welcome two of America's finest: General David Petraeus, Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

And I'd like to thank each of you for appearing before us today. It's wonderful to see you both again.

And let me remind members that the testimony we'll be receiving reflects the best judgment of these two leaders and later this week, the Congress will receive the presidential report required by the 2007 supplemental appropriations bill, which will reflect the reports of our two witnesses today.

This is their first appearance, public appearance, regarding the report.

I'll start by commending all of those troops, Foreign Service officers, who serve under our witnesses. And their mission is most challenging. And they and their families have sacrificed tremendously and have served valiantly. We know that, where there's been progress on the ground, it's due to their heroic efforts.

Today it's a critical moment. This Congress and the nation are divided on the pace with which the United States should turn over responsibility to the Iraqis. But every member here desires that we complete our military involvement in Iraq in a way that best preserves the national security of our country.

I think it's where we must begin, by considering the overall security of this nation.

SKELTON: It's our responsibility here in Congress, under the Constitution, to ensure that the United States military can deter and, if needed, prevail anywhere our interests are threatened. Iraq is an important piece of that overall equation, but it's only a piece.

There are very real trade-offs when we send 160,000 of our men and women in uniform to Iraq. Those troops in Iraq are not available for other missions, they're not available to go into Afghanistan to pursue Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaida leaders who ordered an attack on us one day short of six years ago.

These troops and their depleted equipment are also not easily available to respond to a new conflict that might emerge. It is the issue of readiness.

My colleagues have heard me say this before but, in my 30 years in Congress, we have been involved in 12 military contingencies; some of them major in scope, almost all unexpected.

Right now, with so many troops in Iraq, I think our response to an unexpected threat would come at a devastating cost. Our troops have become outstanding at counterinsurgencies, but we need them prepared for the full spectrum of combat. This is a lesson we learn again and again.

In 1921, in his book, ;America's Duty, ; general Leonard Wood addressed a similar situation from his day by saying, ;The Spanish War gave little training, as did the Philippine insurrection. Campaigns of this kind are of limited value as a preparation for war with an organized, prepared power. ;

SKELTON: Wars stress armies. We should make sure that the strain on our force is undertaken consciously -- that this war is vital to our national security. We must be sure.

Before we talk about continuing the effort -- that Iraq is the war worth the risk of breaking our Army -- being unable to deal with other risk to our nation -- that is the strategic context in which I consider the situation in Iraq today.

(inaudible) from me also is how we have gotten to where we are in Iraq.

Remember the discussion of weapons of mass destruction, the ;Mission Accomplished: sign, the General Garner's short tenure, we recall Paul Bremer, the long debate over the summer of 2004 about whether or not there was an insurgency and then the grudging admission from the then-secretary of defense that fall that, ;Yes, there was, in fact, a growing insurgency. ;

We recall the first and second battles of Fallujah, the idea that we could quickly train the Iraqi security forces to replace us. We should remember this history as we evaluate the current status of our efforts in Iraq.

The surge is just the latest in a long line of operations. It, frankly, looks like as if there has been technical progress in the security area. We should, at this point, temper any enthusiasm with the caveat that this is Iraq. Nothing has been easy there.

In a poll of Iraqis released this morning, sponsored by ABC News, the BBC and the Japanese broadcaster, NHK, we learned that at least 65 percent of Iraqis say the surge is not working and 72 percent say the U.S. presence is making Iraqi security worse. This is troublesome.

SKELTON: Our valiant are improving security in the areas where they're deployed. This makes good sense. They're the best. So of course things improve when we deploy more of them.

Some called for more forces to be deployed immediately after the invasion, which just might have avoided a lot of the current troubles had we done so.

One of the great ironies of this hearing today is that General Petraeus, who sits here before us, is almost certainly the right man for the job in Iraq. But he's the right person three years too late and 250,000 troops short.

If we had your vision and approach, General, early on, we might not have gotten to the point where our troops are caught in the midst of brutal sectarian fighting without an Iraqi government bridging the political divides that drive the violence.

The surge was intended to provide breathing space, breathing space for the Iraqis to bridge sectarian divides with real political compromises. But while our troops are holding back the opposing team to let them make a touchdown, the Iraqis haven't even picked up the ball.

The president's July report and the GAO report of a few days ago showed the lack of progress on individual benchmarks, and no one can make the case that the Iraqi government has made great strides.

The witnesses must tell us why we should continue sending our young men and women to fight and die if the Iraqis won't make tough sacrifices leading to reconciliation.

What's the likelihood that things will change dramatically? Will there be political progress in the near term?

SKELTON: I hope, General Petraeus, and I hope, Ambassador Crocker, that you can persuade us that there is a substantial reason to believe that Iraq will turn around in the near future.

Now, you have the burden of answering these fundamental questions to those of us who have been watching Iraq for years. And every promising development so far has not turned out to be a solution for which we had hoped.

Columnist Tom Friedman said something wise in his column not long ago when he asked, ;What will convey to you that the surge is working and worth sustaining? ;

His answer was, ;If I saw Iraq's Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders stepping forward, declaring their willingness to work out their differences by a set deadline, and publicly asking us to stay until they do. ;

Well, I think Mr. Friedman had a point and one we need to keep in mind while we consider where we go from here in Iraq.

The Iraq leaders have not done this, and, sadly, I don't think there's likelihood that they will in the future.

I will call on Chairman Lantos, Ranking Member Hunter, Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen, and then we will proceed under the five-minute rule. We'll appreciate everyone's cooperation in that regard.

Chairman Lantos?

REP. TOM LANTOS, D-CALIF. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

LANTOS: And, on behalf of all of the members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I want to extend the most cordial welcome to our two distinguished witnesses.

Two of our nation's most capable public servants have come before us today to assess the situation in Iraq.

General Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker, every single one of us wants you to succeed in your efforts to the maximum possible extent.

We admire the heroism and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform and the dedication of our diplomatic corps in Iraq. And we fully understand the terrible burden on their families.

Our witnesses have been sent here this morning to restore credibility to a discredited policy.

LANTOS: We and the American people already know that the situation in Iraq is grim and the growing majority of this Congress and of the American people want our troops out.

In October of 2003, I flew in a helicopter with you, General Petraeus, over northern Iraq around Mosul. As we passed over the countryside, you pointed out to me several ammunition dumps that had once belonged to the army of Saddam Hussain.

I don't have enough troops to guard these places, you said. Someday, this might come back to haunt us.

Well, General Petraeus, you saw it coming. Those unguarded ammo dumps became the arsenals of insurgency. Those weapons have been turned against us. How very typical of this war.

LANTOS: The administration's myopic policies in Iraq have created a fiasco. Is it any wonder that, on the subject of Iraq, more and more Americans have little confidence in this administration?

We cannot take any of this administration's assertions on Iraq at face value anymore. And no amount of charts or statistics will improve its credibility.

This is not a knock on you, General Petraeus, or on you, Ambassador Crocker, but the fact remains, gentlemen, that the administration has sent you here today to convince the members of these two committees and the Congress that victory is at hand.

With all due respect to you, I must say, I don't buy it. And neither does the independent General Accountability Office or the commission headed by General Jones. Both recently issued deeply disturbing and pessimistic reports.

The current escalation in our military presence in Iraq may have produced some technical successes. But strategically, the escalation has failed. It was intended to buy time for Prime Minister Maliki and the other Iraqi political leaders to find ways to move toward the one thing that may end this terrible civil conflict. And that, of course, is a political settlement. As best we can see, that time has been utterly squandered.

LANTOS: Prime Minister Maliki has not shown the slightest inclination to move in the direction of compromise. Instead of working to build national institutions, a truly Iraqi army, a competent bureaucracy, and nonsectarian police force, Maliki has moved in the opposite direction.

The so-called Unity Accord, announced with such fanfare a couple of weeks ago, is just another in a long list of empty promises. Instead of acting as a leader for Iraq as a whole, Maliki has functioned as the front man for Shiite partisans. And he has presided over a Shiite coalition that includes some of the most notorious militias, death squads and sectarian thugs in Iraq.

LANTOS: This is not what the American people had in mind. And when Mr. Maliki states, as he recently did that, if the Americans leave he can find, quote, ;new friends, ; we are reminded most forcefully of his and his party's intimate ties to Iran.

In his recent visit to Anbar province the president made much of our cooperation in the fight against Al Qaida with Sunni tribal militias. This alliance may, in the short run, be a positive development, but it also raises some serious and profound questions.

Anbar, of course, includes just 5 percent of the population of Iraq -- an important 5 percent, but still only 5. What's more, by arming, training and funding the Sunni militias in that province, we are working against our own strategy of building national Iraqi institutions.

America should not be in the business of arming, training and funding both sides of a religious civil war in Iraq.

Did the administration learn nothing from our country's actions in Afghanistan two decades ago when by supporting Islamic militants against the Soviet Union we helped pave the way for the rise of the Taliban? Why are we now repeating the shortsighted patterns of the past?

LANTOS: In Iraq today, we are wrecking our military, forcing their families to suffer needlessly, sacrificing the lives of our brave young men and women in uniform.

And the enormous financial cost of this war is limiting our ability to address our global security needs, as well as pressing domestic problems such as health care, crumbling infrastructure and public education. The cost of this war in Iraq will be passed along to our grandchildren and beyond.

In the last few days, General Petraeus, media have reported that you are prepared to support a slow drawdown of our forces in Iraq, beginning with a brigade or two, perhaps at the end of this year.

This clearly is nowhere near enough. We need to send Maliki's government a strong message, loud and clear. Removing a brigade is nothing but a political whisper and it is unacceptable to the American people and the majority of the Congress.

LANTOS: As long as American troops are doing the heavy lifting in Iraq, there is no reason, none at all, for the Iraqis themselves to step up.

Military progress without political progress is meaningless. It is their country, and it is their turn. Prime Minister Maliki and the Iraqi politicians needed to know that the free ride is over and that American troops will not be party to their civil war.

The situation in Iraq cries out for a dramatic change of course. We need to get out of Iraq, for that country's sake and for our own. It is time to go -- and to go now.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: I thank the gentleman.

The gentleman from California, Mr. Hunter?

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, R-CALIF. RANKING MEMBER: Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, I'd like to ask unanimous consent to put my written statement into the record.

SKELTON: Without objection.

HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

You know, Mr. Chairman, we generally pass the threshold question when we have witnesses appearing before us, that threshold question being the credibility and the credentials of the witnesses.

But I think it would be interesting to General Petraeus to know -- and perhaps he does know, and Ambassador Crocker to some degree -- that the last week or so has been spent attacking your credibility, with major attacks here in the United States, some of them emanating from right here, saying essentially that your testimony today is going to be, and I quote my friend from California, Mr. Lantos, not your testimony but the -- but testimony which is written by, quote, ;political operatives. ;

In fact, I know that's not the case. I haven't reviewed your testimony, but I know this: Duty, honor, country; those are the principles by which our great officers in the United States Army and the other services derive their careers and base their careers on.

We've asked you for an independent assessment.

And, frankly, Mr. Chairman, the idea that we have spent the last week prepping the battlefield by attacking the credibility of the messenger is something that I think goes against the tradition of this great House.

And the last thing that I saw that particularly irritated me was a massive full-page ad in, I think it was the New York Times, stating that General Petraeus is, in fact, ;General Betray Us. ; That's moveon.org.

HUNTER: Mr. Chairman, one of the great assets of this country is the professionalism and the capability and the integrity of the people who lead our armed forces. General Petraeus is coming back, not just as guy who's going to give us his take on the Iraq situation, but as the leader of more than 160,000 American personnel in uniform in Iraq.

And they're not only watching his testimony, but they're also watching our testimony. They're watching how we treat him. They're watching this Congress to see if we give credibility to what people in uniform say.

And so, Mr. Chairman, I think it's an outrage that we spent the last week prepping the ground, bashing the credibility of a general officer whose trademark is integrity, who was unanimously supported by the U.S. Senate for his position. And unanimity in the U.S. Senate is almost a majority these days.

And also Mr. Crocker, who brings an outstanding, unblemished record in the United States State Department to this very difficult position. Now, you know, I haven't read General Petraeus' report. But I do know some of the facts. I know the fact that we had 1,350 attacks in Anbar Province last October, that that is down by 80 percent.

Now, my friend, Mr. Lantos, has pointed out that Anbar is about 5 percent of the population. Say to my friend -- that's true. But at times in this war, it has been 50 percent of the American casualties.

And, therefore, what happens in Anbar Province is of importance to Americans; not just to the general public, but to the mothers and fathers and to the service people themselves who serve in that very difficult theater.

HUNTER: Now, in my estimation, the stand-up of the Iraqi military is the key to a stabilized Iraq, and that means those 131 battalions that we have trained and equipped.

And for those who said that we could have kept Saddam Hussein's army in place and that was somehow a major blunder, I'm reminded that Saddam Hussein's army had 11,000 Sunni generals.

Now, what are you going to do with an army with 11,000 Sunni generals, literally squads of generals, many of whom who have made their careers beating up on a Shiite population when that army is supposed to be the honest broker that brings reconciliation to the communities in Iraq?

And you know something? If you look at the leadership of the Iraqi army now, as shaped by General Petraeus and his subordinates, you now see Shiites in leadership positions. You see Sunnis in leadership positions. You see Kurds in leadership positions. You see a military which is starting to emerge as a professional force.

And for those who say that we could have simply adopted Saddam Hussein's army and that would have been the, quote, ;smooth road, ; there is absolutely no precedent for that.

Mr. Chairman, I've been here before. I was here when the left in this body said that if we stood up to the Russians in Central Europe we would bring on another war, that President Ronald Reagan was going to bring on World War III.

Instead, we held tough. We stood tough. And we brought down the Berlin Wall.

And I was here when, in Central America, when we had the communists supplying the FMLN and we put a small protection around that fragile government, and we allowed them to have free and fair elections. I remember people in this body saying that would be our next Vietnam, we would be bogged down.

Well, we hung tough, we provided that shield, and today there's El Salvadorans standing with American forces in Iraq.

Now, the key to having a stabilized Iraq which is a friend, not an enemy of the United States, which will not be a state sponsor of terrorism for the next five to 10 to 15 to 20 years, in my estimation is a successful hand-off of the security apparatus from American forces to the Iraqi armed forces.

HUNTER: And that requires one thing. It requires reliability, having a reliable Iraqi force. And that is manifest in those 131 battalions that are now maturing.

And the idea that this Congress is going to arbitrarily overlay a requirement for a reduction in America's forces when we are moving toward a maturing of the Iraqi forces and a successful hand-off, which will be a victory for the United States, I think should not be supported by this body.

So, Mr. Chairman, let's lead off this hearing with this stipulation: that the gentlemen who are appearing before us, and particularly General Petraeus whose credibility has been attacked all week long by the Left in this country, represents the very best in military tradition.

But he is going to testify with an independent, candid view, and he is going to give us the one thing we ask of all of our military officers. And that is a candid, independent assessment given with integrity in the same tradition of MacArthur and Eisenhower and Schwarzkopf.

I look forward to this hearing, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: Thank the gentleman.

Be understood that the capability, the integrity, the intelligence, and the wisdom of our two witnesses requires nothing but admiration from me and those of us about to receive their testimony.

I have had a long friendship with General Petraeus. And when a few moments ago in my opening statement I said he is one of the best, he is. We expect their best judgment, and we will receive it.

SKELTON: Ms. Ros-Lehtinen?

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, R-FLA. RANKING MEMBER: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Gentlemen, for your leadership and for the dedication of all who serve with you, our nation is eternally grateful.

As the wife of a Vietnam veteran who was severely wounded in combat, I understand the sacrifices that you and all of our men and women defending our nation's security interests in Iraq and beyond have made and continue to make on a daily basis.

I experience the anxiety of having one's children in harm's way, as my stepson Douglas and daughter-in-law, Lindsay, both Marine captains, served in Iraq and now Lindsay continues to serve in Afghanistan.

I take comfort listening to them defend the importance of our mission in Iraq, for our broader regional interests and strategic priorities, including our efforts to protect our homeland.

They understand what is at stake. And they remind me that we cannot yield the victory to the radical Islamists.

Their words resonate so profoundly today on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the horrific events of September 11th. Douglas and Lindsay were in Iraq during the historic elections and described the sight of Iraqi families lining up to vote for the first time, bringing their children as witnesses, despite the Al Qaida threats that the streets would run red with the blood of anyone who voted. They said it was nothing less than awe-inspiring.

They will never forget that sight. And they ask Congress to never forget it either. They believe that those Iraqi voters deserve our continued assistance. They believe the Iraqis are worth it, and I do as well.

General Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker, do you think so as well?

ROS-LEHTINEN: It is also significant that on the eve of this grim anniversary, we would be holding a hearing highlighting the contrast between those of us who are inspired by this new greatest generation and believe that we must confront and defeat Al Qaida and other jihadists on the Iraqi battlefield, and those of us who believe that we should simply retreat.

I am distressed by the accusations leveled by some in the media and by some members of Congress during hearings like these, calling into question the integrity of our military, accusing the military of cherry-picking positive numbers to reflect a dramatic decline in sectarian violence. Some in Congress accuse you, General Petraeus, of presenting a report that is simply White House propaganda.

I have more respect for the military and for the military leaders' regard for the men and women whom they lead, than to believe that you would misrepresent the facts and alter conclusions to serve partisan purposes.

I trust your reporting and that of our troops on the ground regarding the levels of sectarian violence over those compiled by individuals and entities who wish to discredit the information to justify an immediate withdrawal.

General Petraeus, does this report reflect your knowledge and conclusions regarding the facts on the ground in Iraq? Do you stand behind it? The personal attacks launched today by moveon.org against General Petraeus, calling this man of honor and courage ;General Betray Us ; in a full-page ad in the New York Time is outrageous and it is deplorable.

ROS-LEHTINEN: It has been reported that the organization that paid for this ad has been coordinating its efforts in the last few months with certain members to derail the strategy spearheaded by you, General Petraeus. I sincerely hope that those reports are untrue.

In an interview reported in The Politico published just last Friday, an anonymous Democratic senator was quoted as saying, ;No one wants to call Petraeus a liar on national TV. The expectation is that outside groups will do this for us. ;

This cannot be tolerated. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to publicly denounce the ad that says that you are cooking the books for the White House and to apologize to you, General Petraeus, for casting doubt upon your integrity.

Today's hearing must focus on answering fundamental questions. How do we achieve critical U.S. strategic objectives? What policies will help us defend and advance our nation's security interests?

The development of viable, stable, representative government with economic development and political freedom for their citizens is a key element of our broad strategic approach to the war against Islamic militants, and this is considered by radical Islamists as the greatest threat to their aims, which is why Islamic jihadists, including Al Qaida, are blocking the development of such institutions in Iraq.

Radical Islam sees Iraq as a central front in their war on freedom. The enemies of the emerging Iraqi representative government as the enemies of democracies everywhere. They are our enemies, as well.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Do we fight and defeat this enemy?

We must not fool ourselves into believing that we can accommodate our enemies and thereby secure their cooperation. Accommodation has been tried in the past, with catastrophic consequences.

Chamberlain genuinely believed that he had bought peace in our time, washing his hands of what he believed to be an isolated dispute in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing. Chamberlain only ensured that an immensely larger threat was thereby unleashed.

Many speak of national reconciliation and granting amnesty as if the Mahdi Army, other Islamic jihadists, Al Qaida in Iraq, would lay down their arms simply because the Iraqi central government or the U.S. Congress asked them to.

Our military strategy and our presence in Iraq is critical to progress on the political front, which helps ensure long-term security goals. Iraq has taken significant steps toward building a representative government, but it does have a long way to go on this difficult road.

Our own history reminds us of how truly difficult that road is, but also of how worthy is the goal.

Yet, rapid withdrawal from Iraq would transmit to the radical Islamists that America has little real commitment to this goal and will abandon its stated core beliefs for temporary short-term relief.

There could be no greater confirmation of radical Islam's indictment of this decadent West and its great Satan, us, America, which, in their view, is weak and unreliable.

The latest NIE on Iraq said perception that the coalition is withdrawing probably will encourage factions anticipating a power vacuum to seek local political solutions and security solutions that could intensify sectarian violence and intra-sectarian competition.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Precipitous withdrawal plays into the Islamic terrorist agenda. Al Qaida leader al-Zawahiri has affirmed jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals.

First, expel the Americans from Iraq. The second stage, establish an Islamic authority. The third stage, extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq. The fourth stage, the clash with Israel.

The enemy, however, did not count on the United States regaining the initiative and going on the offensive throughout this strategy behind the surge. This strategy has driven a wedge between Al Qaida and the Sunni population and that will help drive a similar wedge between the Shia extremists, particularly those in Sadr's Mahdi militia.

The Jones report suggests that the Iraqi security forces have made progress -- with the exception of the national police, which are not to be confused with the Iraqi police. The report concluded that there should be increasing improvements in both their readiness and their capability to provide for the internal security in Iraq.

As President Reagan would remind us, the ultimate determinant in the struggle now going on for the world will not be bombs and rockets, but a test of wills and ideas.

ROS-LEHTINEN: A trial of a spiritual resolve --for all who have served and died defending what our nation holds dear, I hope that we, too, rise to the occasion and not let them down by precipitously withdrawing from the fight before the mission is truly accomplished.

Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: Thank you, gentlelady.

General David Petraeus, the floor is yours.

We will have to ask you to stand a bit closer to the microphone because the acoustics in here are not -- well, not good at all.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, is there a written statement?

SKELTON: There is, and you should have it in front of you.

Would somebody please fix the microphone? The statement should be passed out by now.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, I'm getting charts, not a statement.

SKELTON: This is what's been provided.

Is it working again? I don't want to have to take a recess. Let's get it fixed.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, will there be a written statement that we can read?

SKELTON: We will have to ask the general that.

He says yes.

How's the microphone?

(PROTESTOR SHOUTS OFF-MIKE)

SKELTON: Please remove the person making the disturbance.

Is it fixed?

BURTON: Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman?

SKELTON: Who's speaking?

BURTON: Congressman Burton.

SKELTON: Where are you?

BURTON: I'm down here, just to your left. Should be on your right, but I'm on your left.

SKELTON: Still don't see you.

BURTON: Right here. Look.

SKELTON: There you are.

BURTON: OK. I see a number of people in the audience that I anticipate will be making a disturbance. And if this occurs during the testimony by our honored guests, I hope that you will be very firm and get them out of here.

SKELTON: You don't have to lecture me. They'll be gone. Don't worry about it.

BURTON: Well, I still see them out there.

SKLETON: Do not worry about him. Don't worry about him. We have done this before.

All right, those who display their sign, out they go. We mean business. This is a very important hearing. We're not about to have this nonsense go on now or later.

How are we doing on the microphone?

(CROSSTALK)

SKELTON: Out they go.

Are they fixed yet?

SKELTON: Is there any way to trade microphones from the front row to the podium?

I'm told it'll take five minutes to fix the microphone. We'll take a five-minute break.

(RECESS)

SKELTON: General, does it work?

PETRAEUS: It does, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: Let me, before I ask you to proceed, again, state any demonstrations, any signs or demonstrative evidence will cause your removal.

Once again, General, the floor is yours.

PETRAEUS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, ranking members, members of the committees, thank you for the opportunity to provide my assessment of the security situation in Iraq and to discuss the recommendations I recently provided to my chain of command for the way forward.

At the outset I would like to note that this is my testimony. Although I have briefed my assessment and recommendations to my chain of command, I wrote this testimony myself. It has not been cleared by nor shared with anyone in the Pentagon, the White House or the Congress until it was just handed out.

As a bottom line up front, the military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met. In recent months, in the face of tough enemies in the brutal summer heat of Iraq, coalition and Iraqi security forces have achieved progress in the security arena.

Though the improvements have been uneven across Iraq, the overall number of security incidents in Iraq has declined in eight of the past 12 weeks, with the number of incidents in the last two weeks at the lowest levels seen since June 2006.

One reason for the decline in incidence is that coalition and Iraqi forces have dealt significant blows to Al Qaida Iraq. Though Al Qaida and its affiliates remain dangerous, we have taken away a number of their sanctuaries and gained the initiative in many areas.

We have also disrupted Shiite militia extremists, capturing the head and numerous other leaders of the Iranian-supportive special groups, along with a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative supporting Iran's activities in Iraq.

PETRAEUS: Having provided that 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 for the way ahead in Iraq.

The fundamental source of the conflict in Iraq is competition among ethnic and sectarian communities for power and resources. This competition will take place and its resolution is key to producing long-term stability in the new Iraq. The question is whether the competition takes place more or less violently.

This chart shows the security challenges in Iraq.

SKELTON: General, let me interrupt you.

The members should have the charts in front of them. The chart over near the wall is very difficult to see from here. So I would urge the members to look at the charts that have been handed out and should be immediately in front of them.

Thank you, General.

PETRAEUS: This chart shows the security challenges in Iraq. Foreign and homegrown terrorists, insurgents, militia extremists and criminals all push the ethno-sectarian competition toward violence. Malign actions by Syria and especially by Iran fuel that violence.

Lack of adequate governmental capacity, lingering sectarian mistrust, and various forms of corruption add to Iraq's challenges.

In our recent efforts to look to the future, we found it useful to revisit the past.

In December 2006, during the height of the ethno-sectarian violence that escalated in the wake of the bombing of the golden dome mosque in Samarra, the leaders in Iraq at that time, General George Casey and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, concluded that the coalition was failing to achieve its objectives.

Their review underscored the need to protect the population and reduce sectarian violence, especially in Baghdad.

PETRAEUS: As a result, General Casey requested additional forces to enable the coalition to accomplish these tasks and those forces began to flow in January.

In the ensuing months, our forces and our Iraqi counterparts have focused on improving security, especially in Baghdad and the areas around it. Wresting sanctuaries from Al Qaida control and disrupting the efforts of the Iranian-supported militia extremists.

We have employed counterinsurgency practices and an underscored the importance of units living among the people they are securing. And, accordingly, our forces have established dozens of joint security stations and patrol bases manned by coalition and Iraqi forces in Baghdad and in other areas across Iraq.

In mid-June, with all the surge capabilities in place, we launched a series of offensive operations focused on expanding the gains achieved in the preceding months in Anbar province, clearing Baqouba, several key Baghdad neighborhoods, the remaining sanctuaries in Anbar province and important areas in the so called belts around Baghdad, and pursuing Al Qaida in the Diyala river valley and several other areas.

Throughout this period as well, we engage in dialogue with insurgent groups and tribes. And this led to additional elements standing up to oppose Al Qaida and other extremists.

We also continued to emphasize the development of the Iraqi security forces and we employed non-kinetic means to exploit the opportunities provided by the conduct or our kinetic combat operations, aided in this effort by the arrival of additional provincial reconstruction teams.

PETRAEUS: 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 and I see improvements in the security environment.

We do not, however, just rely on gut feel or personal observations. We also conduct considerable data collection and analysis to gauge progress and determine trends. We do this by gathering and refining data from coalition and Iraqi operation centers, using a methodology that has been in place for well over a year, and that has benefited over the past seven months from the increased presence of our forces living among the Iraqi people.

We endeavor to ensure our analysis of that data is conducted with rigor and consistency, as our ability to achieve a nuanced understanding of the security environment is dependent on collecting and analyzing data in a consistent way over time.

Two U.S. intelligence agencies recently reviewed our methodology and they concluded that the data we produced 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, and with the number of attacks this past week the lowest since April 2006.

Civilian deaths of all categories, less natural causes, have also declined considerably, by over 45 percent Iraq-wide since the height of the sectarian violence in December. This is shown by the top line on this chart. And the decline by some 70 percent in Baghdad is shown by the bottom line.

Periodic mass casualty attacks 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 clearly still too high and continues to be 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, the number of ethno-sectarian deaths has come down by over 55 percent, and it would have come down much further were it not for the casualties inflicted by barbaric Al Qaida bombings attempting to reignite sectarian violence.

In Baghdad, as the bottom line shows, the number of ethno- sectarian deaths has come down by some 80 percent since December.

PETRAEUS: 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 in the Iraqi capital, and identifies the areas that remain the most challenging.

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 the number of arms, ammunition and explosives caches.

As this 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 be a factor in the reduction in the number of overall improvised explosive device attacks in recent months, which, as this 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 this 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 newfound willingness of local Anbaris to volunteer to serve in the Iraqi army and Iraqi police service.

As I noted earlier, we are seeing similar actions in other locations as well. To be sure, trends have not been uniformly positive across Iraq, as is shown by this chart depicting violence levels in several key Iraqi provinces.

PETRAEUS: The trend in Nineveh province, for example, has been much more up and down until a recent decline, and the same is true in Salahuddin province, Saddam's former home province, though recent trends there and in Baghdad have been in the right direction recently.

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 from a high of some 175 in March, as this chart shows, to about 90 this past month.

While this trend in recent months 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 and its affiliates in Iraq.

As this 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, as the recent national intelligence estimate on Iraq explained, these gains against Al Qaida are as a result of the synergy of actions by conventional forces to deny the terrorists sanctuary, intelligence of surveillance and reconnaissance assets to find the enemy, and special operations elements to conduct targeted raids.

A combination of these assets is necessary to prevent the creation of a terrorist safe haven in Iraq.

In the past six months, we have also targeted Shia militia extremists, capturing a number of senior leaders and fighters, as well as the deputy commander of Lebanese Hezbollah Department 2800, the organization created to support the training, arming, funding -- in some cases -- direction of the militia extremists by the Iranian Republican Guard Corps Quds Force.

PETRAEUS: These elements have assassinated and kidnapped Iraqi governmental leaders, killed and wounded our soldiers with advanced explosive devices provided by Iran and indiscriminately rocketed civilians in the international zone and elsewhere.

It is increasingly apparent to both coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of this Quds Force, seeks to turn the Iraqi special groups into Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.

(PROTESTOR SHOUTS OFF-MIKE)

PETRAEUS: The most significant developments...

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SKELTON: Would the gentleman suspend -- will the entire group that's back there supporting that person be removed?

PETRAEUS: The most significant development...

SKELTON: Just a minute, General.

PETRAEUS: Yes, sir.

SKELTON: Proceed.

PETRAEUS: 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.

PETRAEUS: This has, of course, been most visible in Anbar province. A year ago the province was assessed as lost politically. Today it is a model of what happens when local leaders and citizens decide to oppose Al Qaida and reject its Taliban-like ideology.

While Anbar is unique and the model it provides 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 this chart shows, other tribes have been inspired by the actions of those in Anbar and have volunteered to fight extremists as well.

We have, in coordination with the Iraqi government's National Reconciliation Committee, been engaging these tribes and groups of local citizens who want to oppose extremists and to contribute to local security. Some 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 burdens 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 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.

Beyond that, all of Iraq's battalions have been heavily involved in combat operations that often result in the loss of leaders, soldiers and equipment. These losses are among the shortcomings identified by operational readiness assessments, but we should not take from these assessments the impression that Iraqi forces are not in the fight and contributing.

Indeed, despite their shortages, many Iraqi units across Iraq now operate with minimal coalition assistance.

As counterinsurgency operations require substantial numbers of boots on the ground, we are helping the Iraqis expand the size of their security forces.

Currently there are some 445,000 individuals on the payrolls of Iraq's Interior and Defense Ministries. Based on recent decisions by Prime Minister Maliki, the number of Iraq security forces will grow further by the end of this year, possibly by as much as 40,000.

Given the security challenges Iraq faces, we support this decision, and we will work with the two security ministries as they continue their efforts to expand their basic training capacity, leader development programs, logistical structures and elements, and various other institutional capabilities to support the substantial growth in Iraqi forces.

Significantly, in 2007, Iraq will, as in 2006, spend more on its 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 a possibility of up to $1.8 billion more being committed before the end of the year.

PETRAEUS: And I appreciate the attention that some members of Congress 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 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 Joints Chiefs of Staff. The essence of the approach recommended is captured and it's 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 fought so hard to achieve 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.

PETRAEUS: And it highlights the importance of regional and diplomatic -- 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 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 continued to grow and have slowly been shouldering more of the security burdens in Iraq.

A mission focused 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. Political progress will take place only if sufficient security exists. Long-term U.S. ground force viability will benefit from a 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 the United States and other nations.

Based on these considerations and having worked the battlefield geometry with Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the Multi-National Corps- Iraq commander, to ensure that we retain and build on the gains for which our troopers have fought, I have recommended a drawdown of the surge forces from Iraq.

In fact, later this month, the Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed as part of the surge will depart Iraq.

Beyond that, if my recommendations are approved, that unit's departure 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 seven months of 2008, until we reach the pre-surge levels of 15 brigade combat teams by mid-July 2008.

I would also like to discuss the period beyond next summer. Force reductions will continue beyond the pre-surge levels of brigade combat teams that we will reach by mid-July 2008.

However, in my professional judgment, 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.

The events of the past six months underscore that point. When I testified in January, for example, no one would have dared to forecast that Anbar province would have been transformed the way it has in the past six months. Nor would anyone have predicted that volunteers in one-time Al Qaida strongholds like Ghazaliyah in western Baghdad or in Adhamiya in eastern Baghdad would seek to join the fight against Al Qaida.

Nor would we have anticipated that a Shia-led government would accept significant numbers of Sunni Arab volunteers into the ranks of the local police force in Abu Ghraib.

Beyond that, on a less encouraging note, none of us earlier this year it appreciated the extent of Iranian involvement in Iraq, something about which we and Iraq's leaders all now have greater concern.

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 base the current recommendations, having by then, of course, a better feel for the security situation, the improvements in the capabilities of our Iraqi counterparts, and the enemy situation.

PETRAEUS: I will then, as I did in developing the recommendations I have explained here today, also take into consideration the demands on our nation's ground forces, although I believe that that consideration should once again inform, not drive, the recommendations I make.

This 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 and Iraqi capabilities permit.

It also reflects the no-later-than date for recommendations on force adjustments beyond next summer and provides a possible approach we have considered for the future force structure and mission set in Iraq.

One may argue that the best way to speed the process in Iraq is to change the MNF-I mission from one that emphasizes population security, counterterrorism and transition to one that is strictly focused on transition and counterterrorism.

Making that change now would, in our view, be premature. We have learned before that there is a real danger in handing over tasks to the Iraqi security forces before their capacity and local conditions warrant.

In fact, the drafters of the recently released national intelligence estimate on Iraq recognized this danger when they wrote, and I quote, ;We assess that changing the mission of coalition forces from a primarily counterinsurgency and stabilization role to a primary combat support role for Iraqi forces and counterterrorist operations to prevent Al Qaida Iraq from establishing safe haven would erode security gains achieved thus far. ;

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 although we both believe this effort can succeed, it will take time.

Our assessments underscore, in fact, the importance of recognizing that a premature drawdown of our forces would likely have devastating consequences.

That assessment is supported by the findings of the 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: a 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 in violence and further ethno-sectarian displacement and refugee flows, alliances of convenience by Iraqi groups with internal and external forces to gain advantages over their rivals, and exacerbation of already challenging regional dynamics especially with respect to Iran.

PETRAEUS: Lieutenant General Odierno and I share this assessment and believe that the best way to secure our national interests and to 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 Coast Guardsmen with whom I'm honored to serve are the best equipped and very likely the most professional force in our nation's history.

Impressively, despite all that has been asked of them in recent years, they continue to raise their right hands and volunteer to stay in uniform. With three weeks to go in this fiscal year, in fact, the Army elements in Iraq of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, for example, have achieved well over 130 percent of the reenlistment goals in the initial term and careerist categories and nearly 115 percent in the mid-career category.

All of us appreciate what you have done to ensure that these great troopers have had what they've 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 weapon systems and individual equipment and munitions 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 proved invaluable in Iraq.

The capabilities that you have funded most recently, especially the vehicles that will provide greater protection against improvised explosive devices, are also of enormous importance.

Additionally, your funding of the Commander's Emergency Response Program has given our leaders a critical tool with which to prosecute the counterinsurgency campaign.

PETRAEUS: 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.

(PROTESTOR SHOUTS OFF-MIKE)

SKELTON: The person will be removed.

Let me make this announcement. Those who have been...

(PROTESTOR SHOUTS OFF-MIKE)

SKELTON: ... please remove them.

(PROTESTOR SHOUTS OFF-MIKE)

SKELTON: Those who have been...

(PROTESTOR SHOUTS OFF-MIKE)

Please remove them.

(PROTESTOR SHOUTS OFF-MIKE)

SKELTON: Let me make the announcement that those of you have (OFF-MIKE) and improper conduct, who have, who are, and who will throughout the remaining of this hearing will be prosecuted under Section 10(503)16 of the District of Columbia and we will prosecute them under the law.

This is intolerable. We will not allow it. And I hope everyone that's considering it understands because they will be prosecuted.

Ambassador Crocker?

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SKELTON: Order will be restored.

SKELTON: Mr. Ambassador?

U.S. AMBASSADOR RYAN C. CROCKER : Mr. Chairman, Ranking Members, Members of the committees, thank you for the opportunity to address you today.

I consider it a privilege and an honor to serve in Iraq at a time when so much is at stake for our country and the people of the region, and when so many Americans of the highest caliber in our military and civilian services are doing the same.

I know that a heavy responsibility weighs on my shoulders to provide the country with my best, most honest assessment of the situation in Iraq in its political, economic and diplomatic dimensions and the implications for the United States.

In doing so, I will not minimize the enormity of the challenges faced by Iraqis, nor the complexity of the situation. At the same time, I intend to demonstrate that it is possible for the United States to see its goals realized in Iraq and that Iraqis are capable of tackling and addressing the problems confronting them today.

A secure, stable, Democratic Iraq at peace with its neighbors is, in my view, attainable. The cumulative trajectory of political, economic, and diplomatic developments in Iraq is upwards, although the slope of that line is not steep. This process will not be quick. It will be uneven and punctuated by setbacks, as well as achievements, and it will require substantial U.S. resolve and commitment.

There will be no single moment at which we can claim victory. Any turning point will likely only be recognized in retrospect. This is a sober assessment, but it should not be a disheartening one. I have found it helpful during my time in Iraq to reflect on our own history. At many points in our early years, our survival as a nation was questionable.

Our efforts to build the institutions of government were not always successful in the first instance, and tough issues such as slavery, universal suffrage, civil rights and states' rights were resolved only after acrimonious debate and sometimes violence.

Iraq is experiencing a revolution, not just regime change. It is only by understanding this that we can appreciate what is happening in Iraq, what Iraqis have achieved, as well as maintain a sense of realism about the challenges that remain.

CROCKER: Evaluating where Iraqis are today only makes sense in the context of where they have been. Any Iraqi under 40 years of age -- and that is the overwhelming majority of the population -- would have known nothing but the rule of the Baath Party before liberation 4.5 years ago.

Those 35 years were filled with crimes against humanity on every scale. Saddam Hussein ruled without mercy, not hesitating to use lethal force and torture against even those in his inner circle.

His genocidal campaign against the Kurds and savagery toward southern Shia are well known. But he also used violence and intimidation as tools in the complete deconstruction of Iraqi society.

No organization or institution survived that was not linked in some way to regime protection.

He created a pervasive climate of fear in which even family members were afraid to talk to one another.

This is the legacy that Iraqis had as their history when Saddam's statue came down on April 9, 2003. No Nelson Mandela existed to emerge on the national political scene. Anyone with his leadership talents would not have survived.

CROCKER: A new Iraq had to be built almost literally from scratch. And the builders, in most cases, were themselves reduced to their most basic identity, ethnic or sectarian. Much progress has been made, particularly in building an institutional framework where there was none before.

But rather than be in a period in which old animosities and suspicions were overcome, the past 18 months have further strained Iraqi society. The sectarian violence of 2006 and early 2007 had it's seeds in Saddam's social deconstruction and it had dire consequences for the people of Iraq, as well as its politics.

Extensive displacement and widespread sectarian killings by Al Qaida and other extremist groups have gnawed away at the already frayed fabric of Iraqi society and politics. It is no exaggeration to say that Iraq is and will remain for some time to come, a traumatized society.

It is against this backdrop that development in Iraqi national politics must be seen. Iraqis are facing some of the most profound political, economic and security challenges imaginable. They're not simply grappling with the issue of who rules Iraq, but they're asking what kind of country Iraq will be, how it will be governed, and how Iraqis will share power and resources among each other.

The constitution approved in a referendum in 2005 answered some of these questions in theory, but much remains uncertain in both law and practice.

Some of the more promising political developments at the national level are neither measured in benchmarks, nor visible to those far from Baghdad.

For instance, there is a budding debate about federalism among Iraq's leaders and importantly within the Sunni community. Those living in places like Anbar and Salahuddin are beginning to realize how localities, having more of a say in daily decision-making will empower their communities.

CROCKER: No longer is an all-powerful Baghdad seen as the panacea to Iraq's problems. This thinking is nascent, but it is ultimately critical to the evolution of a common vision among Iraq's leaders.

Similarly, there is a palpable frustration in Baghdad over the sectarian system that was used to divide the spoils of the state in the last few years. Leaders from all communities openly acknowledge that a focus on sectarian gains has led to poor governance and served Iraqis badly, and many claim to be ready to make the sacrifices that will be needed to put government performance ahead of sectarian and ethnic concern. Such ideas are no longer controversial, although their application will be.

Finally, we are seeing Iraqis come to terms with complex issues, not by first providing a national framework, but instead by tackling immediate problems.

One such example is how the central government has accepted over 1,700 young men from the Abu Ghraib area west of Baghdad, as General Petraeus mentioned. This number includes members of -- former members of insurgent groups to be part of the Iraqi security forces.

Another example is how the government, without much public fanfare, has contacted thousands of members of the former Iraqi army offering them retirement, return to the military, or public sector employment.

So without the proclamation of a general amnesty, we see provisional immunity being granted, and we see de-Baathification reform in advance of national legislation.

In both instances, the seeds of reconciliation are being planted.

We have come to associate progress on national reconciliation as meaning the passage of key pieces of legislation. There is logic to this, as the legislation we are urging Iraqis to produce does in one way or another have to do with the question of how to share power and resources among Iraq's communities.

This legislation also has to do with the vision of the future Iraqi state. The oil and revenue-sharing laws, for instance, deal with deeper issues than simply whether Iraqis in oil-producing areas are willing to share their wealth with other Iraqis.

What is difficult about these laws is that they take Iraq another step down the road toward a federal system that all Iraqis have not yet embraced.

But, once again, we see that even in the absence of legislation, there is practical action as the central government shares oil revenues through budget allocations on an equitable basis with Iraq's provinces.

In many respects, the debates currently occurring in Iraq on de- Baathification reform and provincial powers are akin to those surrounding our civil rights movement or struggle over states rights.

With de-Baathification, Iraqis are struggling to come to terms with a vicious past. They are trying to balance fear that the Baath Party would one day return to power with the recognition that many former members of the party are guilty of no crime and joined the organization not to repress others but for personal survival.

CROCKER: With provincial powers, Iraqis are grappling with very serious questions about what the right balance between the center and the periphery is for Iraq. Some see the devolution of power to regions and provinces as being the best insurance against the rise of a future tyrannical figure in Baghdad. Others see Iraq with its complex demographics as in need of a strong central authority.

In short, we should not be surprised or dismayed that Iraqis have not fully resolved such issues. Rather, we should ask whether the way in which they are approaching these issues gives us a sense of their seriousness and ultimate capability to resolve Iraq's fundamental problems.

Is the collective national leadership of Iraq ready to prioritize Iraq over the sectarian and community interests? Can and will they come to agreement about what sort of Iraq they want?

I do believe that Iraq's leaders have the will to tackle the country's pressing problems, although it will take longer than we originally anticipated because of the environment and the gravity of the issues before them.

Prime Minister Maliki and other Iraqi leaders face enormous obstacles in their efforts to govern effectively. I believe they approached the task with a deep sense of commitment and patriotism.

An important part of my assessment was the effort made by the leaders this past summer. After weeks of preparatory work and many days of intensive meetings, Iraq's five most prominent national leaders from the three major communities issued a communique on August 26th that committed them to an ongoing consultative process on key issues, and noted agreement on draft legislation dealing with de- Baathification and provincial powers.

CROCKER: This agreement by no means solves all of Iraq's problems. But the commitment of its leaders to work together on hard issues is encouraging. Perhaps, most significantly, these five Iraqi leaders, together, decided to publicly express their joint desire to develop a long-term relationship with the United States.

Despite their many differences and perspectives and experiences, they all agreed on language acknowledging the need for a continued presence by the multinational forces in Iraq and expressing gratitude for the sacrifices these forces have made for Iraqis.

At the provincial level, political gains have been more pronounced, particularly in the north and west of Iraq, where the security improvements have been, in some places, dramatic. In these areas, there is abundant evidence that the security gains have opened the door for meaningful politics.

In Anbar, as General Petraeus has noted, the progress on the security side has been extraordinary. Six months ago, violence was rampant, our forces were under daily attack and Iraqis were cowering from the intimidation of Al Qaida. But Al Qaida overplayed its hand in Anbar.

Recognizing that the coalition would help reject Al Qaida, the tribes began to fight with us, not against us. The landscape in Anbar is dramatically different as a result. Tribal representatives are on the provincial council which is now meeting regularly to find ways of restoring services, developing the economy, and executing a provincial budget. These leaders are looking for help to rebuild their cities and they're talking of attracting investment.

Such scenes are also unfolding in parts of Diyala and Nineveh, where Iraqi's have mobilized with the help of the coalition and Iraqi security forces to evict Al Qaida from their communities.

The world should note that, when Al Qaida began implementing the twisted version of the caliphate in Iraq, Iraqis from Anbar to Baghdad to Diyala have overwhelmingly rejected it.

Shia extremists are also facing rejection. Recent attacks by elements of the Iranian-backed Jaish al-Mahdi on the worshipers in the holy city of Karbala have provoked a backlash and triggered a call by Muqtada al-Sadr for Jaish al-Mahdi to cease attacks against Iraqi's and coalition forces. A key challenge for Iraqis now is to link these positive developments in the provinces to the central government in Baghdad.

Unlike our states, Iraqi provinces have little ability to generate funds through taxation, making them dependent on the central government for resources. The growing ability of the provinces to design and execute budgets and the readiness of the central government to resource them are success stories.

On September 5, for example, Iraq's senior federal leadership traveled to Anbar where they announced a 70 percent increase in the 2007 provincial capital budget, as well as $50 million to compensate losses incurred by Anbaris in the fight against Al Qaida.

CROCKER: The support of the central government is also needed to maintain hard-won security through the rapid expansion of locally generated police. And the government of Iraq has placed some 21,000 Anbaris on police roles.

Iraq is starting to make some gains in the economy. Improving security is stimulating revival of markets, with the active participation of local communities.

In some places, war damage is being cleared and buildings repaired, roads and sewers built, and commerce energized.

The IMF estimates that economic growth will exceed 6 percent for 2007. Iraqi ministries and provincial councils have made substantial progress this year in utilizing Iraq's oil revenue for investment.

The 2007 governmental budget allocated $10 billion, nearly one- third of Iraq's expected oil export revenue, to capital investment. Over $3 billion was allocated to the provinces in the Kurdish region for spending.

The latest data show that the national ministries and provincial councils have proceeded to commit these funds at more than twice the rate of last year.

Doing the best are the provincial authorities and, in the process, gaining experience with making plans and decisions and running fair tenders.

In so doing, they are stimulating local business development and providing employment.

CROCKER: Over time we expect the experience with more responsive local authorities will change Iraqi attitudes toward their elected leaders and of the provinces toward Baghdad.

At two conferences in Dubai in the last two weeks, hundreds of Iraqi businessmen met an equal number of foreign investors newly interested in acquiring shares of businesses in Iraq. An auction of cell phone spectrum conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers netted the government a better than expected sum of $3.75 billion. The minister of finance plans to use the funds, along with all the country's oil revenue, to apply to its pressing investment and current expenditure needs.

Overall, however, the Iraqi economy is performing significantly under potential. Insecurity in many parts of the countryside raises transport costs and especially affects manufacturing and agriculture. Electricity supply has improved in many parts of the country, but it remains woefully inadequate in Baghdad.

Many neighborhoods in the city receive only two hours a day or less from the national grid, although power supplies for essential services such as water pumping stations or hospitals are much better. The minister of electricity said last week that it would take $25 billion through 2016 to meet demand requirements, but that by investing the $2 billion a year the ministry is now receiving from the government's budget, as well as private investment in power generation now permitted by law, that goal could be met.

CROCKER: Over time we expect the experience with more responsive local authorities will change Iraqi attitudes toward their elected leaders and of the provinces toward Baghdad.

At two conferences in Dubai in the last two weeks, hundreds of Iraqi businessmen met an equal number of foreign investors newly interested in acquiring shares of businesses in Iraq. An auction of cell phone spectrum conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers netted the government a better than expected sum of $3.75 billion. The minister of finance plans to use the funds, along with all the country's oil revenue, to apply to its pressing investment and current expenditure needs.

Overall, however, the Iraqi economy is performing significantly under potential. Insecurity in many parts of the countryside raises transport costs and especially affects manufacturing and agriculture. Electricity supply has improved in many parts of the country, but it remains woefully inadequate in Baghdad.

Many neighborhoods in the city receive only two hours a day or less from the national grid, although power supplies for essential services such as water pumping stations or hospitals are much better. The minister of electricity said last week that it would take $25 billion through 2016 to meet demand requirements, but that by investing the $2 billion a year the ministry is now receiving from the government's budget, as well as private investment in power generation now permitted by law, that goal could be met.

CROCKER: We are deploying our assistance funds to make a difference to ordinary Iraqis and to support our political objectives. Military units are using Commanders' Emergency Response -- CERF -- Funds to ensure that residents see a difference when neighborhood violence declines.

USAID community stabilization funds provide tens of thousands of jobs throughout the country. With the recent apportionment of 2007 supplemental funds, we are putting quick response funds, QRF, in the hands of our provincial reconstruction team leaders to help build communities and institutions in post-kinetic environments.

Vocational training and micro-finance programs are supporting nascent private businesses. And in Baghdad, we are increasing our engagement in capacity building efforts with ministries.

On the diplomatic level, there is expanding international and regional engagement with Iraq. In August, the U.N. Security Council, at Iraq's invitation, provided a the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, UNAMI, with an expanded mandate through U.N. SCR 1770.

CROCKER: The work of the international compact with Iraq moves forward, jointly chaired by Iraq and the United Nations. 74 countries pledged support for Iraq's economic reform efforts at a ministerial conference in May. The U.N. has reported progress in 75 percent of the 400 areas Iraq has identified for action.

Later this month, the Iraqi prime minister and the U.N. secretary general will chair a ministerial level meeting in New York to discuss further progress under the compact, and how U.N. SCR 1770 can be most effectively implemented.

Many of the Iraq's neighbors recognize that they have a stake in the outcome of the current conflict in Iraq, and are engaging with Iraq in a constructive way. A neighbors ministerial in May, also attended by the P-5 and the G-8, has been followed by meetings of working groups on security, order issues and energy.

An ambassadorial-level meeting just took place in Baghdad, and another neighbors ministerial will be held in Istanbul in October. Against the backdrop of these new mechanisms, the business of being neighbors is quietly unfolding. For the first time in years, Iraq is exporting oil through its neighbor, Turkey, as well as through the Gulf.

Iraq and Kuwait are nearing conclusion on a commercial deal for Kuwait to supply its Northern neighbor withy critically needed diesel. Jordan recently issued a statement welcoming the recent leaders communique and supporting Iraqi efforts at reconciliation. And Saudi Arabia is planning on opening an embassy in Baghdad, its first since the fall of Saddam.

Syria's role has been more problematic. On one hand, Syria has hosted a meeting of the border security working group and interdicted some foreign terrorists in transit to Iraq. On the other hand, suicide bombers continue to cross the border from Syria to murder Iraqi civilians.

Iran plays a harmful role in Iraq.

CROCKER: While claiming to support Iraq in its transition, Iran has actively undermined it by providing lethal capabilities to the enemies of the Iraqi state, as General Petraeus has noted.

In doing so, the Iranian government seems to ignore the risks that an unstable Iraq carries for its own interests.

As we look ahead, we must acknowledge that 2006 was a bad year in Iraq. The country came close to unraveling politically, economically, and in security terms. 2007 has brought some improvements.

The changes to our strategy last January, the surge, have helped change the dynamics in Iraq for the better. Our increased presence made besieged communities feel that they could defeat Al Qaida by working with us.

Our population security measures have made it much harder for terrorists to conduct attacks. We have given Iraqis the time and space to reflect on what sort of country they want.

Most Iraqis genuinely accept Iraq as a multi-ethnic multi- sectarian society. It is a balance of power that has yet to be sorted out.

Enormous challenges remain. Iraqis still struggle with fundamental questions about how to share power, accept their differences, and overcome their past.

Whether Iraq reaches its potential is, of course, ultimately the product of Iraqi decisions. But the involvement and support of the United States will be hugely important in shaping a positive outcome.

Our country has given a great deal in blood and treasure to stabilize the situation in Iraq and help Iraqis build institutions for a united, democratic country governed under the rule of law. Realizing this vision will take more time and patience on the part of the United States.

CROCKER: I cannot guarantee success in Iraq. I do believe, as I have described, that it is attainable.

I am certain that abandoning or drastically curtailing our efforts will bring failure, and the consequences of such a failure must be clearly understood by us all.

An Iraq that falls into chaos or civil war will mean massive human suffering well beyond what has already occurred within Iraq's borders. It could well invite the intervention of regional states, all of which see their future connected to Iraq's in some fundamental way.

Undoubtedly, Iran would be a winner in this scenario, consolidating its influence over Iraqi resources and possibly territory. The Iranian president has already announced that Iran will fill any vacuum in Iraq.

In such an environment, the gains made against Al Qaida and other extremist groups could easily evaporate, and they could establish strongholds to be used as safe havens for regional and international operations.

Our current course is hard. The alternatives are far worse.

Every strategy requires recalibration as time goes on. This is particularly true in an environment like Iraq, where change is a daily or hourly occurrence.

As chief of mission in Iraq, I'm constantly assessing our efforts and seeking to ensure that they are coordinated with and complementary to the efforts of our military.

CROCKER: I believe that, thanks to the support of Congress, we have an appropriate civilian posture in Iraq.

Over the coming year, we will continue to increase our civilian efforts outside of Baghdad and the International Zone. This presence has allowed us to focus on capacity building, especially in the provinces. The number of provincial reconstruction teams has grown from 10 to 25 this year.

In support of these efforts, we will be seeking additional economic assistance, including additional quick-response funds for capacity building. We will also seek support for two significant proposals that hold the prospect of creating permanent jobs for thousands of Iraqis.

One would be the establishment of an Iraqi-American enterprise fund, modeled on our successful fund in Poland and elsewhere in Central Europe. Such a fund could make equity investments in new and revamped firms based in Iraq.

The second would be a large-scale operations and maintenance facility based on our highway trust fund. On a cost-sharing basis, such a fund would train Iraqis to budget for and maintain important public sector infrastructure, such as power plants, dams and roads.

Over time, the cost-sharing would phase down and out, leaving behind well-trained professionals and instilling the habits of preventive maintenance.

We will continue our efforts to assist Iraqis in the pursuit of national reconciliation while recognizing that progress on this front may come in many forms and must ultimately be done by Iraqis themselves.

We will seek additional ways to neutralize regional interference and enhance regional and international support.

And we will help Iraqis consolidate the positive developments at local levels and connect them with the national government.

CROCKER: Finally, I expect we will invest much effort in developing the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq, which is an investment in the future of both countries.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: Thank the gentleman.

Since we had a few moments of lateness due to the microphone problem, we will postpone our first break for a short while. And because there are so many who wish to ask questions, I will adhere the five-minute rule, with the exception of the chairmen and ranking members, but I will limit myself to one question.

While the American sons and daughters are sweating and fighting as the true professionals that they are, it appears, Mr. Ambassador, using your phrase, ;that the key pieces of legislation have not been passed by the parliament. ; And it appear that -- to this country lawyer, that the leaders and parliamentarians in Iraq have been sitting on their thumbs, while the young men and women of America are doing their best to bring security.

The surge was announced in January, again in February. Here it is September. And since the surge was announced and began, the Iraqi leaders have essentially made no progress in passing and implementing measures to bring about national reconciliation.

Mr. Ambassador, why should we in Congress expect the next six months to be any different than it has been in the past?

CROCKER: Mr. Chairman, you are frustrated. The American people are frustrated. I am frustrated every day I spend in Iraq on the lack of progress on legislative initiatives. Iraqis themselves are frustrated.

As I attempted to lay out in my statement, these are extremely complex legislative endeavors. And Iraqis are engaging on them with fundamental issues concerning the nature of the state, as yet unresolved among them.

So it is going to be difficult. It is going to take time. The efforts, in the course of the summer that I mentioned, the statement of August 26, in which Iraq's key leaders committed themselves to continued engagement on these issues and announced agreement, in principle, on de-Baathification reform and provincial powers, suggest to me that, first they are serious; second, they are capable of coming together and thrashing out serious issues in a deliberate and serious manner.

That said, Mr. Chairman, I frankly do not expect that we are going to see rapid progress through these benchmarks. It is important to remind ourselves that the benchmarks are not an end to themselves. They are a means to national reconciliation.

CROCKER: And I think it is very important that we maintain a sense of tactical flexibility and encourage the Iraqis to do the same, to seize opportunities to advance national reconciliation when they arise, as we have seen in Anbar and as we have seen in the government's response to Anbar, through distributing additional budget resources to this province and bringing its young men into security forces.

So while I would certainly share disappointment that progress has been slow on legislative benchmarks, that, to my mind, does not mean there has been no progress toward reconciliation. There has been.

And finally, Mr. Chairman, I think it is important for all of us to remember that the surge hit its full stride just in the month of June. Sectarian violence is diminished, but it is not stopped.

And I think it is going to take more time before the impact of improved security, which all of Iraq's leaders acknowledge has taken place, I think it will take more time before that impact is felt in such a manner that political compromise becomes easier.

SKELTON: Thank you.

Chairman Lantos?

LANTOS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to thank both of our distinguished witnesses for extremely thoughtful and serious testimony.

I'd first like to ask you, General Petraeus, a very specific question.

LANTOS: You have juxtaposed your proposals for a token withdrawal with a hypothetical rapid and irresponsible withdrawal.

Now, as you know better than I do, there are very impressive members of the military with outstanding credentials who favor a much more rapid, but responsible withdrawal of American forces.

Would you be so kind and comment on this intermediate course? Because I believe juxtaposing your token proposals with the hypothetical rapid and irresponsible proposal does not do justice to this most important issue.

PETRAEUS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

First of all, what I recommended was a very substantial withdrawal. Five Army brigade combat teams, a Marine Expeditionary Unit and two Marine battalions represent a very significant force. They are the force, in fact, that have helped us substantially in achieving some of the recent gains that our troopers have fought so hard to achieve.

And posing that withdrawal, I believe, is a very substantial withdrawal. And I have given you my best professional, military advise on what can be done, given the considerations that I laid out, the operational and strategic considerations, which do take into account the strain very much -- which I'm very aware of on our ground forces, in particular.

PETRAEUS: But there has been no recommendation, I am aware of, that would have laid out, by any of those individuals, a more rapid withdrawal. And so, again, I'm at a loss.

Again, I'm the commander in Iraq, I've given you my best professional military advice on how to accomplish the mission that the Multi-National Force-Iraq has, and that is represented in the recommendations that I have made.

Having said that, I did, indeed, take into account, as I mentioned, the strain on the ground forces. My last job, I was in an Army position responsible for some 18 or so schools and centers, and experienced that very much.

I might add, I was in Fort Benning, Georgia, this past Friday and spoke to the lieutenants, captains and non-commissioned officers there, as well, and did, indeed, address that same fact. That was factored in.

But, again, what I have provided is, as the Multi-National Force- Iraq commander -- and that's, of course, I think, what you would want me to provide to my chain of command -- my recommendation on how to accomplish the mission that we have at this time.

LANTOS: Thank you very much.

Ambassador Crocker, I would like to explore with you the possibility of a diplomatic surge.

This administration has been singularly hostile to exploring diplomatic initiatives with countries and governments that we disapprove of.

As a matter of fact, had it not been for congressional initiatives, I very much doubt that we would be as far along vis-a-vis North Korea as we happen to be at the moment, or that we would be having diplomatic relations with Libya. Both of these were basically lubricated by congressional initiatives, not by the administration.

Now, you have been allowed to participate in singularly circumscribed meetings with Iranian officials.

Would you share with us your professional judgment as to the desirability of expanding a diplomatic dialogue with both Syria and Iran, which the administration, at the moment, seems to be opposed to?

CROCKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have had some experience in the past, as I think you know, in negotiating with the Iranians. For a period after 9/11, there were U.N. sponsored talks on Afghanistan that brought us together with the Iranians.

And, for a certain period, we had pretty good success in coming to some agreements on the formation of the Afghan interim government, on dealing with warlords, on some security-related issues and so forth.

So I had that as perspective when I held my meetings with my Iranian counterpart in Iraq. And I found, really, a completely different atmosphere than that which I'd experienced in 2001/2002.

I laid out the concerns we had over Iranian activity that was damaging to Iraq's security, but found no readiness on Iranians' side at all to engage, seriously, on these issues.

The impression I came with after a couple rounds is that the Iranians were interested simply in the appearance of discussions, of being seen to be at the table with the U.S. as an arbiter of Iraq's present and future, rather than actually doing serious business.

CROCKER: So what I would like to see, Mr. Chairman, is, as a first step, the Iranians taking some measures on the ground to qualitatively improve Iraqi security, which they say is in their own interests.

If they are prepared to do that -- and as I have indicated in my discussions with them, we're prepared to discuss other areas with respect to possibly beneficial cooperation between us on Iraq.

And we could see where it goes from there. But, right now, I haven't seen any sign of earnest or seriousness on the Iranian side.

Maybe it will come. These things can take time. We leave the option open. But I haven't seen it yet.

LANTOS: May I just pursue that for one more moment?

In my opening comments, I made reference to Prime Minister Maliki's observation that, should the United States leave, he has other friends in the region -- meaning, clearly, Iran.

Now, given the long relationship between many of the current Iraqi leadership with Iran. given the long periods during which members of the current Iraqi leadership lived in Iran, how serious, in your view, is this statement to be taken?

And is it possible that Maliki or others might, at some time in the future, turn to Iran as a more dependable, quote/unquote, ;friend? ;

CROCKER: Mr. Chairman, sometimes things are said in the heat of the political moment that, on reflection, do not turn out to be the best way to phrase a position.

CROCKER: I would refer you, in contrast, to Prime Minister Maliki's statement, which I just saw this morning -- I think he made it today -- in which he said that Iraq needs the Multi-National Force to be present under the conditions that prevail now in Iraq. And, of course, Prime Minister Maliki was also a signator to the April 26th communique that called for a long-term partnership between Iraq and the United States.

The prime minister, like most of the Iraqi leadership, I think recognizes the challenge that Iran poses. One example, I think, of that recognition is the fact that when Iranian-backed elements of the Jaish al-Mahdi conducted attacks in Karbala about 10 days ago against one of Shia Islam's holiest shrines and on one of the holiest days of the year, the prime minister responded forcefully, going down to Karbala himself to take charge of the situation.

I also note that the prime minister really did not spend much time in Iran. He does not speak Farsi. His initial period there was followed by a much longer sojourn in Syria, an Arab state.

So I think it's important, and I'm sorry to go on at length, but this is an important issue. I think it's very important to understand that Iraq is an Arab state, as you know so well.

CROCKER: Both its Sunni and Shia Arab populations feel strongly about that identity. Many have ties to Iran, but it is a different culture, a different history, a different language and a different past, as the eight-year Iran-Iraq war with its enormous toll on human life attests.

So some of our friends make the mistake of saying that if an individual is a Shia Muslim, affinities lie in Iran. Iraqi Arab Shia have manifestly demonstrated that that is not the case.

LANTOS: Thank you very much.

PETRAEUS: Could I add, possibly, Mr. Chairman...

LANTOS: Of course.

PETRAEUS: ... because I think what may have been confused in the press, perhaps, is that Central Command headquarters did do an analysis for Admiral Fallon and with the Multi-National Force-Iraq staff contributing, and my contribution, to a look several years down the road that would be a footprint for what might be termed a situation where there's a long-term security agreement, no longer the U.N. Security Council resolution. And it may be that that was what that was referring to because that's the only proposal for a dramatic reduction.

As I said, the discussions that we had, had more to do with the timing of mission shifts, rather than anything else. And he, again, as I said, in fact, just to reassure me the other day, as well, fully supports the recommendations that I have made.

LANTOS: Thank you, General Petraeus.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: Thank you.

The gentleman from California, Mr. Hunter?

HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And, General Petraeus, give us a little depth in terms of your analysis of where the Iraqi army stands today with respect to its officer corps, perhaps field grade officer corps, its NCO corps, and whether it's, in your view, becoming an instrument for reconciliation between Sunni, Shia and Kurds.

HUNTER: And also, tell us a little bit about how you feel the nation and the people of Iraq, in those communities, now perceive the army. Do they perceive it as an institution of value with professionalism? You mentioned that there are still those that follow a sectarian loyalty.

But where do we stand right now, since those days of when we started to build this army from scratch?

PETRAEUS: Well, as I mentioned, there is a very substantial number of Iraqi battalions, especially Iraqi army battalions, that are very much in the fight. They may not meet operational readiness assessment level one criteria, perhaps because of a shortage of equipment, officers, noncommissioned officers -- some of those from combat losses, in fact. But there are numerous of these battalions that are in the fight and, again, are taking tough casualties.

Indeed, in many cases, regardless of what their operational readiness assessment, there may be no coalition assistance whatsoever in some of the southern provinces that have moved to provincial Iraqi control, for example.

In other cases, certainly, they may be in the lead with us supporting or literally partnering together with us.

There is an unevenness still about the Iraqi army -- although, they are certainly the force that is seen by the Iraqi people as the more professional force and as one that is less sectarian, certainly than say certain national police elements, about which a lot of action has been taken by the Ministry of Interior and more as needed.

There are specific units in the Iraqi army, both Prime Minister Maliki and we want to take action and will take action.

PETRAEUS: But, again, by and large, the Iraqi army is standing and fighting and taking casualties. It does not have all the commissioned or noncommissioned officers that it needs. In fact, it is short. The expansion of this force that has continued and has been considerably much greater than what was originally planned for, I might add, but is needed given the security challenge that Iraq has, especially since the sectarian violence of 2006 and into early 2007.

And so we do, indeed, support very much that expansion. And they are taking on a variety of initiatives -- both to bring back former officers. In fact, they have reached out to former military and offered them either service in the army, retirement, or other government employment. By the way, a number of these were part of the army that was dis-established early on or affected by other early policy.

That has attracted some back, but they still need more.

And, in fact, I think it is a challenge, clearly. It's one thing to train young troopers. It is another to produce a staff officer or a battalion or brigade commander. That is a challenge that they are facing right now.

They have implemented a number of initiatives to improve the manning of their commissioned and noncommissioned officer corps. The Iraqi military academies, there are now four of them, do produce well over a thousand new lieutenants a year now. There is also a junior staff college, a senior staff college and a war college.

Again, need much more capacity. And that is, in fact, being increased, as is the basic training capacity.

And I might add, there's even now a basic training facility in Anbar province as well as a police academy out there for the first time in two years.

The Iraqi army is still viewed as a national instrument, certainly. And in that regard, it is very heartening to see Sunni Arabs volunteer once again for their army, because, as you may recall, for quite some time, there was a dearth of volunteers and no one in Anbar province would raise his hand -- or at least very few would raise their hands to serve in the army or in the police.

That is not a problem now in Sunni areas. They realized that they made a mistake by not volunteering, by leaving the force in some cases when their families or they were intimidated. They do not want to repeat that, just as they view not voting in the elections a mistake.

The citizens, again, view the army with more confidence than any other Iraqi security force institution. Again, I would hasten to say that there are some elements, again, small elements in this case, of that force that do need to be dealt with in terms of their sectarian influence. And, again, Prime Minister Maliki is very much determined to deal with that.

HUNTER: Thank you. Just one final question: You have mentioned, and we're all familiar with, Ambassador Crocker's team and the meetings with the Iranians.

HUNTER: You mentioned early on that -- both of you, I believe -- that military equipment -- that deadly military equipment continues to flow from Iran. Has that flow increased or decreased since your meetings?

PETRAEUS: We believe that it has increased, at least based on the number of explosively formed projectile attacks, in particularly, and to a lesser degree rocket attack. It's tough to tell how long it takes to get it all the way into the pipeline. There was a brief drop-off for a couple of weeks, but it appears that that is increasing and we do not see a sign of that abating, nor do we see signs of the training or other activity, although the Quds Force itself, we believe, by and large, those individuals have been pulled out of the country, as have the Lebanese Hezbollah trainers that were being used to augment that activity.

HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: I thank the gentleman.

We will have our five-minute break as soon as the gentlelady from Florida completes her questioning. So we recognize Ms. Ros-Lehtinen from Florida.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. And thank you for the very calm way in which you have conducted this hearing.

And, again, I offer my colleagues the opportunity to use this hearing to distance themselves from the despicable ad that was published today calling into question the patriotism of General Petraeus.

ABERCROMBIE (?): Point of order, Mr. Chairman. Nobody has to distance themselves from something they weren't associated with.

SKELTON: Please proceed.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you.

General Petraeus, I wanted you to elaborate on impact on the broader Middle East, on the meddling by Iran and Syria, the impact on precipitous withdrawal by U.S., the consequences of failure, as you pointed out.

And, Ambassador Crocker, I want to ask you about what we can do to get more countries to follow through 100 percent with their monetary pledges so far.

So, General Petraeus, what are the short- and long-term security and strategic interests for the United States in Iraq and, more importantly, the consequences of withdrawal before conditions warrant?

ROS-LEHTINEN: As we know, the NIE reports noted, ;Over the year, Tehran will continue to provide funding, weaponry and training to Iraqi Shia militants and that the I.C. now assesses that Damascus is providing support to non-AQI groups inside Iraq, in a bid to increase Syrian presence and influence. ;

Could you comment on statements by members of the radical Iranian regime that it will increase its interference in Iraq if the U.S. rapidly withdraws?

What are we doing to prepare the Iraqi people, as well as our own forces, to counter this threat?

Ambassador Crocker, you also had said our current course is hard. The alternatives are far worse -- so if you could elaborate upon these far worse alternatives and the consequences for our nation's security and our interests, for us to withdraw prematurely.

And, lastly, we've gotten commitments from other nations in the region. And we want further financial contributions, commitments from friendly nations, not rogue nations, to help Iraq in its reconstruction and political reconciliation.

How can we have those commitments translate into concrete action?

How can we get them to deliver on their promises?

After all, we have seen, over the years, these same countries promise to provide financial aid to Palestinians, for example. Those funds have never materialized. And then those countries blame Israel and blame the United States.

Thank you, Gentlemen.

PETRAEUS: Well, Congresswomen, first of all, obviously, we want to avoid Iraq ever becoming an Al Qaida sanctuary.

PETRAEUS: That is much less likely than it was, perhaps, certainly a year ago because of a number of factors; as I mentioned, the most significant being Sunni Arabs increasingly rejecting Al Qaida, its indiscriminate violence and its Taliban like ideology.

But our forces have made it possible to clear cities like Ramadi and Baqouba so that those individuals could, in fact, stand up and contribute to local security; something that is hugely important.

Local forces have to be involved in, invested in, and supportive of local security. It's a practice anywhere in the world.

And, in fact, when we were unable to get individuals to volunteer for the Fallujah police force, for example, what that meant is we had to have individuals from the outside come -- in many cases, who were not necessarily of the same ethno-sectarian background and not always as welcome as they might have been.

The fact is now that the Fallujah police force is largely composed of locals. It has just finished the 10th precinct out of 10. And that is allowing the Iraqi army to move outside the city much greater, to pursue Al Qaida in areas north of Fallujah as an example.

We also want to avoid a situation that provide an excuse for Iran to fill the void as (inaudible) was.

We certainly want to avoid a further humanitarian disaster. Iraq has already had enormous humanitarian problems with perhaps as many as 2 million outside the country and another as many 2 million perhaps displaced inside the country.

And, of course, we want to ensure Iraqi's continued involvement in the global economy, particularly in the form of exporting its oil resources.

ROS-LEHTINEN: As we know, the NIE reports noted, ;Over the year, Tehran will continue to provide funding, weaponry and training to Iraqi Shia militants and that the I.C. now assesses that Damascus is providing support to non-AQI groups inside Iraq, in a bid to increase Syrian presence and influence. ;

Could you comment on statements by members of the radical Iranian regime that it will increase its interference in Iraq if the U.S. rapidly withdraws?

What are we doing to prepare the Iraqi people, as well as our own forces, to counter this threat?

Ambassador Crocker, you also had said our current course is hard. The alternatives are far worse -- so if you could elaborate upon these far worse alternatives and the consequences for our nation's security and our interests, for us to withdraw prematurely.

And, lastly, we've gotten commitments from other nations in the region. And we want further financial contributions, commitments from friendly nations, not rogue nations, to help Iraq in its reconstruction and political reconciliation.

How can we have those commitments translate into concrete action?

How can we get them to deliver on their promises?

After all, we have seen, over the years, these same countries promise to provide financial aid to Palestinians, for example. Those funds have never materialized. And then those countries blame Israel and blame the United States.

Thank you, Gentlemen.

PETRAEUS: Well, Congresswoman, first of all, obviously, we want to avoid Iraq ever becoming an Al Qaida sanctuary.

PETRAEUS: As you look at the neighbors, Syria has allowed its soil to be transited by foreign fighters who have come from a variety of source countries in the Gulf area and in the -- in North African countries.

There are some signs that that may have been reduced somewhat in the last couple of months. We need to watch that a bit and see if that is the case. We would certainly welcome an opportunity to confirm their excellence in tightening Damascus Airport, Aleppo, and other methods used to enter their country and transit its soil to go into Iraq, where many of them have become suicide bombers.

Iran, as we have already discussed, has carried out very, very harmful activities inside Iraq. Funding, trainings, arming and, in some cases, even directing the activities of the special groups associated with the Jaish al-Mahdi and the Sadr Militia.

We welcome, by the way, the recent announcement, directive pledge of honor by Muqtada al-Sadr ordering his forces to stand down. We have seen reduced activity by some of his Jaish al-Mahdi that appear to be honoring his order.

However, it is not clear that the special groups, in particular, have done so and, in fact, EFP attacks and rocket attacks have continued and we are monitoring that very closely and noting that those are criminal activities that we will, in fact, with Iraqi security forces, seek to address.

We are going to try to interdict more of this activity from Iran. The Georgian Brigade that has recently -- the country of Georgia that has entered Iraq recently is positioned southeast of Baghdad.

PETRAEUS: As you look at the neighbors, Syria has allowed its soil to be transited by foreign fighters who have come from a variety of source countries in the Gulf area and in the -- in North African countries.

There are some signs that that may have been reduced somewhat in the last couple of months. We need to watch that a bit and see if that is the case. We would certainly welcome an opportunity to confirm their excellence in tightening Damascus Airport, Aleppo, and other methods used to enter their country and transit its soil to go into Iraq, where many of them have become suicide bombers.

Iran, as we have already discussed, has carried out very, very harmful activities inside Iraq. Funding, trainings, arming and, in some cases, even directing the activities of the special groups associated with the Jaish al-Mahdi and the Sadr Militia.

We welcome, by the way, the recent announcement, directive pledge of honor by Muqtada al-Sadr ordering his forces to stand down. We have seen reduced activity by some of his Jaish al-Mahdi that appear to be honoring his order.

However, it is not clear that the special groups, in particular, have done so and, in fact, EFP attacks and rocket attacks have continued and we are monitoring that very closely and noting that those are criminal activities that we will, in fact, with Iraqi security forces, seek to address.

We are going to try to interdict more of this activity from Iran. The Georgian Brigade that has recently -- the country of Georgia that has entered Iraq recently is positioned southeast of Baghdad.

PETRAEUS: And it is very keen to contribute, in fact, in helping to control and interdict the flow of weapons and other -- and money and so forth from Iran that goes to these special groups.

CROCKER: Thank you.

With respect to how to get more countries to support Iraq positively, there are two important initiatives under way that I briefly touched on, the neighbors mechanism and then the international compact.

What we found last spring when we moved toward ministerial level meetings of both groups in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, that the fact of convening a ministerial tended to focus governments' attention on what they would bring to the table.

So, we had, as you know, some pretty good luck getting both neighbors and the international community more broadly to sign up to Paris Club-level standards of debt forgiveness.

We followed up with individual countries, some creditors who did not make commitments in Sharm el-Sheikh. And I believe that the ministerial-level meeting that will take place in New York in less than two weeks' time will be another opportunity to concentrate the world community on things they need to be doing for Iraq.

In that connection, we've seen some interesting and positive signs. In a period of only about 10 days at the end of August, Iraq hosted visits by two major European foreign ministers, Bernard Kouchner of France and then Carl Bildt of Sweden.

These are the first noncoalition European Union ministerial visits of this stature. So I think there is starting to be an awareness that what happens in Iraq is very important to Europe and to the world, and now some indications of a readiness to -- on the part of these governments to involve themselves in a more direct way.

And I think, again, both the New York ministerial and then the subsequent neighbors ministerial at the end of October in Istanbul -- which, again, will bring not only the neighbors, but the P-5 and the G-8 countries at the foreign minister level -- are excellent opportunities for the Iraqis and for us to further energize concrete contributions to Iraq's future.

CROCKER: So we'll be working intensively on that.

I would only -- I have very little to add to what I said earlier, what General Petraeus said about the consequences of abrupt changes in policy, except to note that -- not for this chamber, because the committees you represent and you have a very sophisticated understanding of how the world works.

But I sometimes think in this debate there is an implicit assumption that we can decide we don't want to be engaged in Iraq any longer or at least not in the way we have been and that, you know, the chapter comes to a close, the movie ends, and we all go on to other things.

Iraq will still be there. And the actors in Iraq will make calculations and take actions without us, as will the neighbors, as Iran is already indicating it's quite prepared to do.

So I just think it's very important as we consider what our options are and where we're going in Iraq that we understand that this process will carry forward with or without us -- and it's my assessment, at least, that going forward without us under current conditions would be extremely damaging for regional stability and for some of our own vital interests.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you, Gentlemen.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: I thank the gentlelady.

We'll now have our five-minute break.


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