Crocker and Petraeus Testify Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq

CQ Transcripts Credit

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., D-DEL. CHAIRMAN : The committee will come to order. The hearing will come to order.

Six years ago this morning, agents of Al Qaida attacked the United States of America and murdered 2,998 American people. So I'd like you all to please join me at the beginning of this hearing for a moment of silence for the victims of 9/11.

Thank you.

Ambassador Crocker, General Petraeus, welcome. We've been seeing a lot of one another.

And I want to thank Ambassador Crocker for his hospitality to me last week in both Ramadi and in Baghdad.

And I'm glad to see you again, General. Welcome home, as brief as this stay may be.

You're here today to give the American people a progress report on the war in Iraq and on the president's decision in January to surge more forces into Iraq.

Americans are hearing a lot about this surge, and they want to know whether it's succeeding, whether the violence in Iraq is going up or down, and what impact that has on the future of Iraq and, most importantly from their perspective, the future of our men and women in uniform that are there as well as the civilians we have stationed there.

General Petraeus, you say the numbers show that violence is decreasing. Others, including the independent Government Accounting Office, have different figures and contrary conclusions.

But in my view, this debate in a sense misses the point.

The one thing virtually everyone now agrees on is that there is no purely military solution in Iraq that lasting stability requires a political settlement among the Sunnis, the Shias and the Kurds.

In announcing the surge, President Bush said his primary purpose was just that: to buy time for a political settlement to emerge in Baghdad.

And so, from my perspective, the most important questions we have to ask are these: Are we any closer to a lasting political settlement in Iraq at the national level today than we were when the surge began eight months ago?

BIDEN: And if we continue to surge for another six months, is there any evidence that the Sunnis, the Shias and the Kurds will stop killing each other and start governing together?

In my judgment, I must tell you, based on my experience and my observation here, as well as in-country, the answer to both those questions is no.

First, are we any closer to a political settlement?

According to you, General Petraeus, in a letter to U.S. forces and civilians in Iraq last Friday, you wrote -- and I appreciate your candor -- you said, Many of us had hoped this summer would be a time for tangible political progress at the national level. It has not worked out as we had hoped, end of quote.

Not according to the administration's own report card has it worked out either. As of July, Iraq's government had failed to make satisfactory progress in five of the eight political benchmarks. The Government Accounting Office gives the Iraq government even lower grades.

And not according to the Iraqi people, apparently, have things gotten a lot better. They're voting on the surge with their feet. When the surge began, about 50,000 Iraqis a month were fleeing their homes for fear of sectarian violence and today they're leaving their homes at a rate as high as 100,000 a month since the surge.

Simply put, Iraqis, both Sunnis and Shiites, still live every day in deadly fear of each other. And until their leaders agree on some way to share power peacefully, that fear is not going to go away and Iraq will not find stability.

Of course, when we surge American troops on a neighborhood, they do a remarkable job of stopping violence and protecting the people. I know it sounds trite to say, but I -- every one of my trips I am more impressed with the raw, sheer bravery -- I don't use the word lightly -- bravery of your troops who get in those up-armored Humvees, ride down those roads, move through those neighborhoods. It just is absolutely stunning that they do it.

But the fact is that the surge of our troops in the neighborhoods, although it has some salutary impact, when we leave, absent a political settlement, every one of the troops I spoke to believe those destructive forces are going to return.

BIDEN: Your troops. Whether I'm talking to a private or a lance corporal or a general, I've not found anybody who doesn't think that unless there's a significant political settlement, once they leave, the troops, that chaos will return.

In Anbar province, which I just visited with the ambassador, we've had success in turning Iraqi Sunni tribes against Sunni jihadists. But that's not particularly relevant to the central problem, and that is the sectarian violence of Sunnis killing Shias.

In my discussion with both the tribal leaders as well as Sunni leaders, I didn't detect any sense of any greater trust or willingness to trust or cooperate with the Shia -- the Shia government in Baghdad.

If we killed or captured every jihadist in Iraq tomorrow, we would still face a major sectarian war that is pitting Iraqis' future against our interest. The fact of the matter is that American lives remain in jeopardy and, as I said, if every single jihadi in the world was killed tomorrow, we'd still have a major, major war on our hands.

Second, in continuing the surge of forces for another six months, is that likely to change that reality? The conclusion I've reached is no. The surge, for whatever tactical or temporary security gains it might achieve, is at the service of a fundamentally flawed strategy.

And that strategy is the administration continues to believe that we can achieve political progress in Iraq by building a strong national unity government in Baghdad that secures the trust of the Iraqi people.

In my view, gentlemen, I don't think that's going to happen in the lifetime of any of us. There is no trust within that central government in Baghdad, no trust in the government by the people, and no capacity of that government to deliver security and services.

And absent an occupation we cannot sustain or a return of a dictator we cannot want, Iraq, in my view, cannot be governed from the center at this point in history.

So, without a settlement, the surge is the best a stopgap that delays, but will not prevent, chaos. Its net effect will be to put more American lives at risk, in my view, with very little prospect of success. And I don't think that is conscionable.

The majority of senators believe the time is now to start drawing down U.S. forces, not just to pre-surge levels but beyond them, and to limit the mission of those remaining to fight Al Qaida, train Iraqis and help protect the borders.

But while starting to leave Iraq is necessary, it's not enough. We also have to -- we also have to shape what we leave behind, so that we do not trade a dictator for chaos.

A number of us have offered alternatives. One of the possibilities I've offered is not a guarantee for stability of Iraq if we leave -- is to, in fact, beef up the federal concept that exists in their constitution. It's based on the reality that Sunni, Shia and Kurds are not ready to entrust their fate to one another.

Instead, we have to give the Iraqi warring faction a breathing room in regions with local control over the fabric of their daily lives -- police, education, jobs, marriage, religion, as, I might add, the Iraqi constitution calls for.

A limited central government would be in charge of common concerns, including distributing Iraqis' oil revenues. A federal decentralized Iraq, in my view, is our last, best hope for a stable Iraq.

And we should refocus our efforts on making federalism work for all Iraqis. At least that is the view that I strongly -- that I strongly hold.

I would initiate a diplomatic surge, not a military surge, to do just that: bringing in the United Nations, major countries, and Iraq's neighbors to help implement and oversee the political settlement that I'm proposing.

No one, as I said, with the ambassador kind enough to allow me to be with him at this conference -- this reconstruction conference in Ramadi, as I said to the Iraqis assembled around the table, we cannot possibly want peace and security in Iraq more than the Iraqi people want it. It is up to them. We can help them get there by bringing power and responsibility down to the local level and by taking fear out of Iraq's future, but that fear will only come out when there's a political settlement.

Ambassador Crocker, General Petraeus, the American military, as you know better than I do, cannot sustain a war in Iraq with no end in sight at the levels we're there now. And the American people will not support an infinite war whose sole remaining purpose is to prevent the situation in Iraq from becoming worse than it is today.

It's time to turn the corner, in my view, gentlemen. We should stop the surge and start bringing our troops home. We should end a political strategy in Iraq that cannot succeed and begin one that can.

I believe if we make this change -- these changes, we can still leave Iraq without leaving behind a civil war that turns into a regional war, endangering America's interest not for a year or two but for a generation.

So, gentlemen, I'm anxious to hear your testimony, and I'm anxious to be able to get to answer you specific -- to ask you specific questions about the overall strategy of the administration and this surge in particular.

I now yield to the senator from Indiana, Chairman Lugar.

SEN. RICHARD G. LUGAR, R-IND. RANKING MEMBER : Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I join you in welcoming General Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker to our committee.

Their report is essential for Congress and the American people to evaluate the complex circumstances and policy options we face with respect to the United States involvement in Iraq.

Our national debate has framed two interdependent steps of the current surge strategy. We're attempting, first, to reduce the violence in Iraq to application of additional American troops, better training of Iraqis and tactics aimed at sustaining stability in key neighborhoods. Second, we are hoping to use the breathing space created by improved security to induce Iraqi political leaders to conclude meaningful compromises on governmental and power sharing.

Now, our last hearing on Iraq featuring the GAO report on benchmarks, I expressed skepticism at success or failure of the benchmarks to be determinative in Iraq. Benchmarks are an important starting point for debate, but they do not answer many questions, including the most fundamental question pertaining to Iraq, namely, do Iraqis want to be Iraqis?

By this, I mean are the Iraqi people, most of whom are now organized according to sectarian and tribal loyalties, willing to sacrifice their own pursuit of national or regional hegemony by granting their sectarian rivals political and economic power?

Can a unified society be achieved despite the extreme sectarian fears and resentments incubated during the oppressive reign of Saddam and intensified during the recent period of sectarian bloodletting?

LUGAR: Is there sufficient room for a national reconciliation when many Sunnis continue to see their political pre-eminence as a birthright and most Shiites believe that their numerical superiority and their oppression they suffered under Saddam Hussein give them the right to dominate the new Iraq?

And even if polling indicates that many Iraqis do want to live in a unified Iraq, how does this theoretical bloc acquire the political power and courage needed to stare down militia leaders, sectarian strongmen, criminal gangs who routinely employ violence for their own tribal and personal ends?

I frame the question in these stark terms because it underscores that achieving benchmarks, which have been a very difficult process up to this point, may be the least of the challenges ahead of us.

Benchmarks measure only the official actions of the Iraqi leaders and the current status of Iraq's political and economic rebuilding effort.

They do not measure the degree to which Iraqis intend to pursue tribal or sectarian agendas over the long term, irrespective of the decisions in Baghdad. They do not measure the impact of regional players, who may choose to support or subvert stability in Iraq. They also do not measure the degree to which progress is dependent on current American military operations which cannot be sustained indefinitely.

Thus, the most uncertain step in the path to a unified, functioning Iraqi society is likely to be when benchmark successes would have been preserved and translated into sustainable national reconciliation. That reconciliation would have to be resilient enough to withstand blood feuds, government corruption, brain drain, calculated terrorist acts, external interference that will challenge social order.

One can debate, as many will do this week, whether progress in Iraq has been sufficient to justify continuing American sacrifices. But the greatest risk for United States policy is not that we are incapable of making progress but that this progress may be largely beside the point, given the divisions that now afflict Iraqi society.

The risk is that our efforts are comparable to a farmer expending his resources and efforts to plant a crop on a floodplain without factoring in the probability the waters may rise.

In my judgment, some type of success in Iraq is possible. But as policy-makers, we should acknowledge that we are facing extraordinarily narrow margins for achieving our goals.

Our preoccupation with benchmarks is typical of one-step-at-a- time perspective related to Iraq in which the political horizon is limited to the next major event.

Now, in mid-September 2007, we have arrived at such a milestone today: the delivery of the Petraeus-Crocker reports.

The conventional wisdom is that the administration will cite enough progress to challenge calls for withdrawal as lacking resolve, but not enough progress to alter the basic faultlines of the Iraq debate.

This debate over progress may be less illuminating than determining whether the administration is finally defining a clear political-military strategy, planning for follow-up contingencies and engaging in robust regional diplomacy. Each of these elements is essential if we are to expand our chances for success.

At this stage of the conflict, with our military strained by Iraq deployments, our global advantages being diminished by the weight of our burden in Iraq, it is not enough for the administration to counsel patience until the next milestone or the next report. We need to see a strategy for how our troops and other resources in Iraq might be employed to fundamentally change the equation.

For example, are we going to attempt the sophisticated task of leveraging our new relationships with Sunni forces into a rough balance of power with the Shiites?

Are we going to build bridges between our new friends in the Sunni community and Shia elements?

How will we maintain any enthusiasm among Shiite leaders for our goals if they perceive we are strengthening Sunni rivals?

Even as the administration defines its current strategy, its vital that it plan for a range of post-September contingencies. The surge must not be an excuse for failure to prepare for the next phase of our involvement, whether that is a partial withdraw, a gradual redeployment or some other option.

We saw in 2003, after the initial invasion of Iraq, disastrous results of failing to plan adequately for contingencies. Currently, because of the politically charged nature of the debate, military planning and diplomacy related to any so-called plan B are constrained by concerns that either would be perceived as evidence of the lack of confidence in the president's surge strategy. We need to lay the groundwork for sustainable alternatives so that, as the president and Congress move to a new plan, it can be implemented effectively and rapidly.

Finally, the pace and intensity of American regional diplomacy to Iraq has failed to match the urgency and magnitude of the problem. Although, Secretary Rice and her team have made some inroads with Gulf nations and other players, we still lack a forum in which to engage Iraq's neighbors on a constant basis. We're allowing conditions in which miscalculations can thrive.

Every nation surrounding Iraq has intense interest in what is happening there. Yet the three Iraq regional working groups establish at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference in early May have met only once since then. Broader regional conferences, such as the one that took place in Baghdad this past weekend, also have convened so infrequently they've had little positive impact on Iraq's status.

An expanded ministerial meeting of Iraq's neighbors is scheduled to occur in Istanbul next month. This is positive, but it's not a substitute for a continuous visible forum in which we insure the transparency of national interests and actions.

Bold and creative regional diplomacy is not just an accompaniment to our efforts in Iraq. It is a precondition for the success of any policy.

We cannot sustain a successful policy in Iraq unless we repair alliances, recruit more international participants in Iraq, anticipate refugee flows, prevent regional aggression, generate new basing options and otherwise prepare for future developments.

If we have not made substantial diplomatic progress by the time a post-surge policy is implemented, our options will be severely constrained and we will be guessing at a viable course in a rapidly evolving environment.

I thank the chairman for calling this hearing and look forward to the testimony of our witnesses.

BIDEN: Thanks, Mr. Chairman.

Ambassador Crocker?

U.S. AMBASSADOR RYAN CROCKER : Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have submitted a statement for the record that I assume has been distributed to the committee. With your permission, I'd like to summarize that statement now.

BIDEN: Without objection, the entire statement will be placed in the record.

CROCKER: Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar, thank you for the opportunity to address this committee this morning.

My intention today is to give you an assessment of political, economic and diplomatic developments in Iraq. In doing so, I will not minimize the enormity of the challenges faced by Iraqis nor the complexity of the situation. Yet 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.

In my view, a secure, stable, democratic Iraq at peace with its neighbors is attainable. In my judgment, the cumulative trajectory of political, economic and other developments in Iraq is upwards, although the slope of that line is not steep.

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

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 four and a half 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.

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 being a period in which old animosities and suspicions were overcome, the past 18 months in particular have further strained Iraqi society.

The sectarian violence of 2006 and early 2007 had its 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 a traumatized society.

It is against this backdrop that developments in Iraqi national politics must be seen.

Iraqis are facing some of the most profound political, economic and security challenges imaginable. They are not simply grappling with the issue of who rules Iraq, but they are 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 the 2005 referendum 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, most importantly perhaps, within the Sunni community. Those living in places like Anbar and Salahuddin are beginning to realize how localities having more of the say in daily decision-making will empower their communities. No longer is an all- powerful Baghdad seen as the panacea to Iraq's problems.

We are also seeing Iraqis come to terms with complex issues, not by first constructing a national framework, but 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, including former members of insurgent groups to be part of the Iraqi security forces.

Another 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 amnesty being granted on the ground, and we are seeing de-Baathification reform, in the case of military officers with Baath Party linkages, in advance of national legislation.

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

In some respects, the debates in Iraq on issues such as de- Baathification and provincial powers are akin to those that surrounded our civil rights movement and our own debate on 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.

With provincial powers, Iraqis are grappling with very serious questions about the right balance between the center and the periphery in Iraq. Many, mainly Shia and Kurds, 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, mainly Sunnis, see Iraq with its complex demographics as in need of a strong central authority.

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.

An important part of my judgment in this regard was the effort made by Iraqi 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 main communities issued a communique on August 26th that noted agreement on draft legislation dealing with de-Baathification and provincial powers.

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.

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. These have opened the door for meaningful politics.

In Anbar, as we know, security progress has been extraordinary. Al Qaida overplayed its hand. Recognizing that the coalition could help eject Al Qaida, the tribes began to fight with us, not against us, and the landscape in Anbar is dramatically different, as a result.

Tribal representatives are now on the provincial council, which is meeting regularly to find ways of restoring services, developing the economy and executing a development budget.

Shia extremists are also facing rejection. Recent attacks by the Iranian-backed Jaish Al-Mahdi on worshipers in the holy city of Karbala have provoked backlash amongst moderate Shia, and triggered a call by Muqtada Al-Sadr for Jaish Al-Mahdi to cease attacks against Iraqis and coalition forces.

One of the key challenges 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 provinces to design and execute budgets and the readiness of the central government to resource them are success stories.

Mr. Chairman, you and I saw one element of that on September 6th, when representatives of Iraq's senior federal leadership traveled to Anbar and announced a 70 percent increase in the 2007 provincial capital budget, as well as $50 million from the central budget to compensate Anbaris for losses suffered in the fight against Al Qaida.

In the economy, Iraq is starting to make some gains. The IMF estimates that economic growth will exceed 6 percent for 2007. Budget execution has improved substantially.

Latest data shows that ministries and provincial councils have committed these funds at more than twice the rate of last year and much of this success, the high performers and the budget picture, are in the provinces.

So, while there are signs of improvement, it is also true that the Iraqi economy is performing significantly under potential.

Insecurity in the countryside raises transport costs and especially affects manufacturing and agriculture.

Electricity supply has improved in many parts of the country but it is still woefully inadequate in Baghdad. Many neighborhoods in the city receive 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.

At the regional and international level, there is expanding engagement with Iraq. In August, the U.N. Security Council, at Iraq's invitation, provided the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, UNAMI, with an expanded mandate through UNSCR 1770. The work of the international compact with Iraq moves forward, jointly chaired by Iraq and the United Nations.

Seventy-four countries pledged support for Iraq's economic reform efforts at a ministerial conference in May. The U.N. has reporting 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 UNSCR 1770 can be most effectively implemented.

Many of 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 border security, refugees and energy.

An ambassadorial-level meeting just took place in Baghdad, and another neighbors ministerial will be held in Istanbul at the end of October, as Senator Lugar notes.

And it is also worth noting that at that ambassadorial meeting just two days ago, one of the items under discussion was the establishment of a permanent standing secretariat for the neighbors to allow precisely the kind of continuity that I think you were referring to, sir.

Iraq is now 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 with 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 hosts over a million Iraqi refugees and hosted the border security working group meeting last month. Syria has also interdicted some foreign terrorists seeking to transit to Iraq.

On the other hand, suicide bombers continue to cross the border from Syria to murder Iraqi civilians.

Iran has actively undermined Iraqi stability by providing funding, training and munitions to extremist militias that attack Iraqis as well as coalition forces.

Whether Iraq reaches its potential is, of course, ultimately the product of Iraqi actions.

But the changes in our strategy last January, the surge, have helped change the dynamics in Iraq for the better.

The involvement and support of the United States will continue to 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. They have not yet realized this vision, and to do so will take more time and patience on the part of the United States.

I cannot guarantee success in Iraq. The challenges, as I have stated, are immense. I do believe, as I have described, that success 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.

An Iraq that falls into chaos or civil war will mean massive human suffering well beyond what is 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 such a 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 constant recalibration. This is particularly true in an environment like Iraq, where change is a daily occurrence.

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

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. In the course of 2007, we have increased the number of our provincial reconstruction teams, for example, from 10 to 25.

This presence has allowed us to focus on capacity building, especially in the provinces, and the provinces are likely to grow in influence as more power devolves from Baghdad.

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.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

BIDEN: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.

General?

PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE)

BIDEN: The committee will -- the police will clear the protesters.

PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE) the war in Iraq three and a half years ago, and it's no better.

BIDEN: General?

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to provide my assessment of the security situation in Iraq and to discuss the recommendations I have provided to my chain of command for the way forward.

As I stated in testimony to the two House committees yesterday, this is my testimony. Although I have a briefed my assessment and recommendations to my chain of command, I wrote this myself and did not clear it with anyone in the Pentagon, the White House or Congress.

Today, I will provide a summary of the full written testimony I have provided to each of you, and for the record.

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

Though improvements have been uneven across Iraq, the overall number of security incidents in Iraq, for example, has declined in eight of the past 12 weeks.

During this time, ethno-sectarian violence has also been reduced and the number of overall civilian deaths has declined, though both are clearly still at troubling levels.

The progress is a result of many factors.

Coalition and Iraqi forces have dealt significant blows to Al Qaida-Iraq and have disrupted Shia militia extremists.

Additionally, in a very significant development, we and our Iraqi partners are being assisted by tribes and local citizens who are rejecting extremism and choosing to help secure Iraq.

Iraqi security forces have also continued to grow and to shoulder more of the load, albeit slowly and amid continuing concerns about the sectarian tendencies of some elements in their ranks.

Based on all this and on the further progress we believe we can achieve over the next few months, I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer, withdrawing one-quarter of our combat brigades by that time without jeopardizing in the security gains that we have fought so hard to achieve.

Beyond that, while noting that the situation in Iraq remains complex, difficult and sometimes downright frustrating, I also believe that it is possible for us to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time, though doing so will be neither quick nor easy.

Having provided that summary, I would like to review briefly the nature of the conflict in Iraq, recall the situation before the surge, describe the current situation and explain the recommendations I have provided to my chain of command.

The fundamental source of the conflict in Iraq is competition among ethnic and sectarian communities for power and resources. This competition will take place. The question is whether it is resolved more or less violently.

This chart shows the security challenges in Iraq. And you have charts in front of you as well.

Foreign and homegrown terrorists, insurgents, militia extremists and criminals all pushed the ethno-sectarian competition toward violence. Malign actions by Syria and especially by Iran fuel that violence. And lack of adequate governmental capacity, lingering sectarian mistrust and various forms of corruption add to the challenges.

In January 2007, in response to the horrific ethno-sectarian violence that spiraled out of control in 2006, and to an assessment in December 2006 that we were failing to achieve our objectives, a surge of forces began flowing into Iraq, focusing on protecting the population and reducing sectarian violence, especially in Baghdad.

In so doing, these forces have employed counterinsurgency practices, such as a living among the people they are securing.

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

And with coalition and Iraqi forces located among the populations they are securing, we have sought to keep areas clear and to help Iraqis in rebuilding them.

All the while, we have engaged in dialogue with insurgent groups and tribes, leading to additional elements standing up to oppose Al Qaida and other extremists.

The progress our forces have achieved with our Iraqi counterparts has, as I noted at the outset, been substantial. While there have been setbacks as well as successes and tough losses along the way, over all, our tactical commanders see improvements in the security environment.

We do not, however, just rely on gut feel or personal observations to gauge progress and to determine trends. We also conduct rigorous consistent data collection and analysis. In fact, two U.S. intelligence agencies recently reviewed our methodology and concluded that the data we produce is the most accurate and authoritative in Iraq.

As I mentioned up front, and as of 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 incidence in the past two weeks, the lowest since June 2006.

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

Periodic mass-casualty attacks, car bombings, by Al Qaida, have tragically added to the numbers outside Baghdad in particular. Even without the sensational attacks, however, the level of civilian deaths is of serious concern.

As the next chart shows, the number of ethno-sectarian deaths, an important subset of the overall casualty figures, has also declined significantly since the height of the sectarian violence in December.

Iraq-wide, as shown by the top line on this chart, ethno- sectarian deaths have come down by over 55 percent. In Baghdad, as the bottom line shows, ethno-sectarian deaths have declined by some 80 percent since December.

This chart also displays the density of sectarian incidents in various Baghdad neighborhoods. And it both reflects the progress made in reducing ethno-sectarian violence and identifies the areas where more work must be done.

As we have gone on the offensive in former Al Qaida and insurgent sanctuaries, and as locals have increasingly supported our efforts, we have found a substantially increased number of arms, ammunition and explosive caches.

As this next chart shows, we have so far this year already found and cleared over of 4,400 catches nearly 1,700 more than we discovered in all of last year.

This may be a factor in the reduction in the overall improvised explosive device attacks in recent months, which, as this next chart shows, has declined sharply, by about one-third, since June.

The change in the security situation in Anbar province has, of course, been particularly dramatic. As this next chart shows, monthly attack levels in Anbar have declined from some 1,350 in October 2006 to a bit over 200 in August of this year.

This a 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 services.

To be sure, trends have not been uniformly positive across Iraq, as is shown by this next chart depicting violence levels in several key Iraqi provinces.

The trend in Nineveh province, for example, has been much more up and down until a recent decline. And the same has been true in Salahuddin province, though recent trends there and in Baghdad, as shown, have been in the right direction.

In any event, the overall trajectory in Iraq, a steady decline of incidents in the past three months, is still quite significant.

The number of car bombings and suicide attacks has also declined in each of the past five months, from a high of some 175 in March, as this next chart shows, to about 90 this past month.

While this trend has been heartening, the number of high-profile attacks is clearly still too high, and we continue to work hard to destroy the networks with our Iraqi counterparts that carry out these barbaric attacks.

Our operations have produced substantial progress against Al Qaida in Iraq.

As this next chart shows, in the past eight months we have considerably reduced the areas in which Al Qaida enjoyed sanctuary. We have also neutralized five important 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-Iraq is certainly not defeated. However, it is off balance and we are pursuing its leaders and operators aggressively.

Of note, these gains against Al Qaida are a result of the synergy of actions by conventional forces, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, and special operations elements. A combination of these assets is necessary to conduct effective operations against terrorist elements.

In the past six months we have also targeted Shia militia extremists, killing or capturing over 1,400 rank-and-file and senior leaders.

It is increasingly apparent to both coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps Quds Force, seeks to turn these Shia militia extremists into a Hezbollah- like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.

PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE)

BIDEN: We will clear the room.

General?

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. The success in Anbar is an example of what can happen when local Iraqis decide to oppose Al Qaida and reject its Taliban-like ideology and indiscriminate violence.

While Anbar's model cannot be replicated everywhere in Iraq, it does demonstrate the dramatic change in security that is possible with the support and participation of local citizens.

As this next chart shows, other tribes have been inspired by the actions of those in Anbar and have volunteered to fight extremists as well.

Over 20,000 such individuals are already being hired for the Iraqi national police -- or the Iraqi police service, thousands of others are being assimilated into the Iraqi army, and thousands more are vying for a spot in Iraq's security forces.

As I noted earlier, Iraqi security forces have continued to grow, to develop their capabilities and to shoulder more of the burden of providing security for their country.

Despite concerns about sectarian influence, inadequate logistics and supporting institutions, and an insufficient number of qualified commissioned and noncommissioned officers, Iraqi units are engaged around the country.

As this next chart shows, there are now nearly 140 Iraqi army, national police and special operations forces battalions in the fight, with about 95 of those capable of taking the lead in operations as judged by the operational readiness assessments, albeit with some coalition support.

Although their qualitative development has not always kept pace with their quantitative growth, all of Iraq's battalions have been heavily involved in combat operations that often result in a loss of leaders, soldiers and equipment. Despite the losses, a number of Iraqi units across Iraq now operate with minimal coalition assistance.

In order to take over the security of their country, the Iraqis are rapidly expanding their security forces. In fact, they now have some 445,000 assigned to the Ministries of Interior and Defense forces, and we believe they will be close to 480,000 by year's end.

Significantly, in 2007 Iraq will, as in 2006, spend more on its security forces then it will receive in security assistance from the United States. In fact, Iraq is becoming one of the United States' larger foreign military sales customers, committing some $1.6 billion to FMS already, with the possibility of up to $1.8 billion more being committed before the end of this year. 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 sustainable security. As a result, the United States will be in a position to reduce its forces in Iraq in the months ahead.

Two weeks ago, I provided recommendations for the way ahead in Iraq to the members of my chain of command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The essence of the approach I recommended is captured in its title: Security While Transitioning: From Leading to Partnering to Overwatch.

This approach seeks to build on the security improvements our troopers and our Iraqi counterparts have achieved in recent months. It reflects recognition of the importance of securing the population and the imperative of transitioning responsibilities to Iraqi institutions and Iraqi forces as quickly as possible, but without rushing to failure. It includes substantial support for the continuing development of Iraqi security forces. It also stresses the need to continue the counterinsurgency strategy that we have been employing, but with Iraqis gradually shouldering more of the load. And it highlights the importance of regional and global diplomatic approaches.

Finally, in recognition of the fact that this war is not only being fought on the ground in Iraq but also in cyberspace, it also notes the need to contest the enemies 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 slowly been shouldering more of the security burden. A mission focus on either population, security or transition alone will not be adequate to achieve our objectives.

Success against Al Qaida-Iraq and Iranian-supported militia extremists requires conventional forces, as well as special operations forces. And the security and 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 only take place if sufficient security exists.

Long-term U.S. ground force viability will benefit from force reductions, as the surge runs its course.

Regional, global and cyberspace initiatives are critical to success.

And Iraqi leaders, understandably, want to assume greater sovereignty in their country. Although, as the 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 the Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, commander of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, to ensure that retain and build on the gains for which our trooper 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, this will be followed by the withdrawal of a brigade combat team without replacement in mid-December, and the further redeployment without replacement of four additional brigade combat teams and two Marine battalions in the first seven months of 2008, until we reach the pre- surge level of 15 brigade combat teams by mid-July 2008.

Force reductions will continue beyond the pre-surge levels of brigade combat teams that we will reach by mid-July 2008. In my professional judgment, however, it would be premature to make recommendations on the pace of such reductions at this time. In fact, our experience in Iraq has repeatedly shown that projecting too far into the future is not just difficult, it can be misleading and even hazardous.

In view of this, I do not believe it is reasonable to have an adequate appreciation for the pace of further reductions and mission adjustments beyond the summer of 2008 until about mid-March of next year.

We will no later than that time consider factors similar to those on which I based the current recommendations, having by then, of course, a better feel for the security situation, the improvements in the capabilities of our Iraqi counterparts and the enemy situation.

This final chart captures the recommendations I have described, showing the recommended reduction of brigade combat teams 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.

In describing the recommendations I have made, I should note again that, like Ambassador Crocker, I believe Iraq's problems will require a long-term effort.

There are no easy answers or quick solutions. And though we both believe this effort can succeed, it will take time. Our assessments underscore, in fact, the importance of recognizing that a premature drawdown of our forces would likely have devastating consequences.

That assessment is supported by the findings of a 16 August Defense Intelligence Agency report on the implications of a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

Summarizing it in an unclassified fashion, it concludes that a rapid withdrawal would result in the further release of the strong centrifugal forces in Iraq and produce a number of dangerous results, including 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 excerbation of already challenging regional dynamics, especially with respect to Iran.

Lieutenant General Odierno and I share this assessment and believe that the best way to secure our national interests and avoid an unfavorable outcome in Iraq is to continue to focus our operations on securing the Iraqi people, while targeting terrorist groups and militia extremists and, as quickly as conditions are met, transitioning security tasks to Iraqi elements.

Before closing, I want to thank you and your colleagues for your support of our men and women in uniform in Iraq. The soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and 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.

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, in munitions and command, control and communication systems, in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, and vehicles and counter-IED systems and programs, and in manned and unmanned aircraft have proven invaluable in Iraq.

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

Finally, we appreciate, as well, your funding of our new detention programs and rule-of-law initiatives.

In 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.

BIDEN: Thank you, General.

Mr. Chairman, we go to seven-minute rounds, I think.

To say to my colleagues, obviously, our witnesses -- not obviously -- our witnesses have to be at the Armed Services Committee this afternoon, so we're going to hold this to seven-minute rounds. And that will just, I think, get us under the wire, everybody being able to ask their question, OK?

But I'm going to hold it strictly to seven minutes, in fact, if you don't mind.

General, as you know, there are independent studies, such as the General Accounting Office report, that disputes your statistics. But let me not get into that debate let me just ask you a question.

Can a Sunni Arab travel safely to a Shia neighborhood in Baghdad today, without fear of being kidnapped or killed?

PETRAEUS: First of all, Mr. Chairman, if I could just make one comment about the GAO report, because one of the reasons for difference, frankly, is that they did have an earlier data cutoff. It's at least five weeks prior to our data cutoff, which runs until this past Friday. And the trends that have developed, in fact, have been, in many respects, confirmed by the data since that time. In some cases, there were earlier data cutoffs.

BIDEN: You're saying the five-week trends -- the five-week difference, confirms your data being correct. Is that what you're saying?

What I'm saying, Mr. Chairman, is that the additional five weeks of data -- their data is our data. I mean, everyone generally uses the same database.

And they just, because of the requirement to submit their report, to get back here and to write it and so forth, they had a data cutoff that was about five weeks before the data that I just showed you. And that does have quite a significant difference because, again, the trend of a 12-week trend the final five weeks have been pretty important.

In some cases, we think the data cut-off may have been even earlier in their particular report.

BIDEN: Well, again, I don't want to get in an argument about that but if you look at your own chart, there have been at least four other occasions where there have been significant decreases in violence over a three-month period and then it shot back up.

Five weeks in Iraq is a moment, as you know better than I do, General.

PETRAEUS: But this is three months, of course.

BIDEN: I understand that.

PETRAEUS: And, again, we are certainly watching it to see and we're fighting, obviously, to try and keep it down.

BIDEN: We're still talking about 1,000 -- over 1,000 weekly attacks -- 1,000. And we're calling that success. Granted it is down from 1,680 or there abouts, but 1,000 a week.

But let me get directly my question and that is can -- can a Sunni Arab travel safely from a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad to a Shia neighborhood in Baghdad?

PETRAEUS: It depends on the neighborhood, frankly, sir.

There's no question but that travel of Sunni Arabs in a number of Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad is still hazardous. And as I mentioned...

BIDEN: Is there any neighborhood in Baghdad that a Shia can safely travel -- that a Sunni can travel that's a Shia neighborhood? Is there any one?

PETRAEUS: Well, there are still substantial mixed neighborhoods, certainly, in the southeastern part of Baghdad in particular, in which that is possible. Yes, sir.

BIDEN: The ambassador and I went to this reconstruction conference. The leaders from Baghdad -- the Kurdish deputy prime minister, the Shia vice president, the Sunni vice president -- we were all -- I was supposed to fly back and meet with Maliki. The helicopter was grounded because of a wind storm. We all sat there for three hours because no one dared leave that city in a vehicle.

Now, I found that kind of interesting, that if -- we would have stayed there the whole night. I don't think there's any possibility, had that sand storm kept up, would anybody -- those guys gotten in a vehicle and traveled back to Baghdad.

Maybe I'm mistaken. Was there any possibility that likely to happen?

CROCKER: Yes, sir. We tried to keep some of the commotion behind the scenes and out of your view, but one of the alternatives we were actively working on it was a road movement all the way back to Baghdad if we couldn't get the helicopter.

BIDEN: And that road movement would have been highly secured, would it not?

CROCKER: Well, for the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, yes, sir.

BIDEN: Oh, I love you. I love you.

(LAUGHTER)

Would have been also for the Kurdish deputy prime minister. He would not be riding back and getting in his diplomatic automobile and driving back.

Let's be straight, guys. You know, the idea that I could have walked outside or we could have walked outside that city and just toured the outside of the city, you guys would have had a apoplectic fit were that to occur and no one would have stepped outside the city.

Let's assume you're right, that there's a reduction. It's a difference, in my view, without a distinction.

But let me get to my next question.

Mr. Ambassador, you indicated that progress will not be quick. In non-diplomatic speak, what does that mean? Should we be telling the American people that we're there for another three, four, five, six, seven, 10 years in relatively large numbers? What do you mean by It will not be quick ?

CROCKER: I think in the past we have set some expectations that simply couldn't be met.

And I'm trying not to do that.

BIDEN: I'm trying to get an accurate estimate.

CROCKER: In terms of concrete things like force levels, as General Petraeus said, neither of us believe we can see beyond next summer. It would be...

BIDEN: But you are seeing beyond next summer. You're saying the process will not be quick. Are you talking about not quick meaning a time frame of a year, or are you talking not quick being well beyond the end of next summer?

CROCKER: It could be well beyond the end of next summer. It certainly will be well beyond the end of next summer before Iraq can achieve the end state I've laid out. There's no question.

What that implies for our presence, levels and so forth, that I can't judge at this point.

BIDEN: Well, I have a minute and 16 seconds left.

Let me suggest that the administration's policy from the outset has been to set up a democratic central government in Iraq that is trusted by the Iraqi people, that we will stand up an Iraqi army so our men and women can stand down and come home, and that the security forces that were added in this tactical ramp-up were designed in order to provide for the government to have breathing room to reach a political reconciliation.

Is it not true that the fundamental purpose of the surge, the primary purpose, a political settlement, has not been met at this point?

CROCKER: Sir, clearly, we do not have a national-level political settlement. It also, I think, is in no way reasonable to expect that a surge that reached its full strength just in the middle of June...

BIDEN: Well, that's what you asserted, though. The administration asserted that's what they'd need.

Let me ask a concluding question in my 19 seconds here.

If, in fact, the circumstances on the ground are exactly what they are today in March of next year, will you recommend the continuation of somewhere between 130,000 and 160,000 American troops being shot at, killed and maimed every day there?

PETRAEUS: Mr. Chairman, I -- that's a pretty big hypothetical.

BIDEN: Well, I don't think it's hypothetical -- if they're the same.

PETRAEUS: I would be very hard-pressed to recommend that at that point in time.

BIDEN: I would pray you would be wise enough not to recommend it and start to listen to General Jones and others who talk about a fundamental redeployment of our force, a fundamental change in our footprint in the region, and a fundamental alteration of our objective in moving toward a federal system.

But my time is up. I yield to Senator Lugar.

LUGAR: Mr. Chairman, I express the regrets of Senator Voinovich for being unable to attend the hearing. He's attending the funeral of Congressman Paul Gillmor in Ohio.

He sends his best to both of you gentlemen. He appreciates your attendance and asks that questions we might ask might follow his return.

BIDEN: Without objection.

LUGAR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

General Petraeus, in the current Newsweek magazine, there's a description of a strategy building in Iraq. The article is called Brainiac Brigade, and it discusses and compliments the officers that you have gathered around you who, at least beginning in meetings in March and perhaps thereafter, defined a possible strategy of beefing up the local people.

You have both mentioned this today that essentially you try to find pockets of stability, or near stability, where ethnic cleansing has ceased, where, at least, violence appears to be lower or can be contained, and there appear to be responsible persons at the local or the provincial level who are prepared to take some responsibility.

And at least according to the Newsweek article, this strategy won out over, at least, an argument that simply counterinsurgency of every insurgent everywhere be pursued, which is less practical than the one you apparently adopted.

Now, building on that, essentially, David Brooks in the New York Times today, responding to the testimony of both of you gentlemen yesterday, indicates that this strategy of attempting to build the locals, at least, is making some headway, and even if the central government is not able to reconcile Shiites and Sunnis or various divisions even among Shiites and so forth, locals are doing better at this.

He also, of course, mentions that, in part, one reason for the decline in killings in Baghdad and in those areas that were illustrated on the charts is that as many as 35,000 Sunni families have fled Baghdad this year, a good number of neighborhoods are more and more depleted of Sunnis, some of your troops have built walls around various neighborhoods -- this has been reported for several months -- so that people could not kill each other as readily.

And the question, obviously, is raised, what if you raise the problems of our enforcement before people have come to either a total cleansing of the situation or some reconciliation, which does not appear to be occurring in Baghdad? And the point is made the president in his trip went to Anbar, not to Baghdad essentially Anbar being perhaps a signal victory for localism.

Now, what I want to ask you, I suppose, Ambassador Crocker, just from the diplomatic standpoint, as you take a look at all of this, over the course of time, potentially, this is a strategy. It is clearly not one that (inaudible) would have founded at the beginning of this situation, but perhaps one in which a good number of people are able to live and let live and govern themselves.

We note the Kurds yesterday were dealing with the Hunt oil company. The Hunts are not drilling for oil yet, but nevertheless they left well beyond the oil law, although they promised to distribute the money if any comes to it.

In other words, are there possibilities in which you have these local situations that, sort of, contribute in a united way to the central government, feeble as it may be, inept and so forth, either for purposes of distribution or some sense of unity, or perhaps what some people have called is this going to be, sort of, soft partition not the three parts that were often mentioned, but multiple parts, all sorts of parts, as a matter of fact?

And if so, can this be protected, then, by the diplomacy which you mentioned may be instituted more forcefully with a regular secretariat meeting all the time, people rubbing shoulders rather than wondering who they're talking to, something so there are not misapprehensions or miscalculations?

The transparency at least of what is occurring might prevent invasions of others with at least a minimal number of American troops there to keep the peace, generally, to be a general referee of the process as Iraqis work things out.

Can you make any comment about this, sort of, general view of things?

CROCKER: Thank you, sir. I'd make two general comments.

First, on what is going on or what may go on in Iraq, I would agree completely that we have to maintain an open mind, a minimum of preconceptions, an absence of U.S. models for what Iraq should be, and an awareness and readiness to respond to what may actually be happening on the ground that can take Iraq in a positive direction, whatever that may be.

The Iraq of the future will definitely not resemble the Iraq of 2003, and it may differ greatly from Iraq today.

There is decentralization going on there's no question. The role and power of governors and provincial councils, although not yet fully defined, is far in excess of what it ever has been. And I think that is a good thing.

So, the Iraqis, again, are going to need to debate these things for themselves at every level. And there have to be connections between the levels.

And that's what I was referring to in my statement when I noted that we're starting to see a more robust debate on what the nature of federalism is. And we're starting to see it among the Sunnis, which I think is a positive sign.

So I think things can very well move in that direction. And if and as they do, we need to be there to encourage positive direction.

With respect, again, to the neighbors and others, that is exactly our intent: to have a more intensive, more positive, more regulated engagement between Iraq and its neighbors.

I think, for example, that it would be a very good thing if some of Iraq's Arab neighbors themselves decided to support economic development, say, in Anbar, now that you have a security environment that permits that.

I also think the United Nations is now positioned to play a more active and involved role.

As you know, the new mandate for UNAMI contains a number of additional areas, including those you touch on. They now have a mandate to support national dialogue and political reconciliation, to resolve disputed boundaries within Iraq, to promote regional dialogue, all with, of course, the permission of the Iraqi government at the request of the Iraqi government.

So I think, again, you have an Iraqi internal process -- or in reality processes -- that we have to be attuned to and encourage them to move on, but then a number of opportunities to support that, regionally, bilaterally, regionally internationally, and internationally with the U.N. mission in Iraq. So I think all of these come into play.

LUGAR: Thank you very much.

I thank both of you for your service. America is fortunate to have such extraordinary leadership at this point.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

BIDEN: Thank you.

Senator Dodd?

DODD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My understanding our longer statements will have to be included in the record.

BIDEN: Yes. Any opening statement that anyone would want to make will be placed in the record before the question.

DODD: I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll ask that be done.

Let me join with the chairman and you, General Petraeus, in, of course, expressing our deep appreciation for the men and women under your command. I don't -- whatever disagreements we have here about policy, I don't think you'll find any member of this committee or any member of this Congress, in fact, the constituents we represent, while there disagreements and serious ones over policy issues, there is a deep and profound respect for the men and women who are serving in a very, very difficult set of circumstances.

I wouldn't want to begin any comments here without expressing that view. It's important I think they understand that, that while we debate about policy questions, there's no debate about the admiration that we have for the courage their showing in these circumstances.

There's a lot of debate, obviously there have been reports about the data and methods used for securing the number of statistics we're going to deal with here -- dealing with here regarding the level of violence in the area. I noted on the chart, General, that you showed -- I think it was one of the first page I want to ask you to put it back up -- but it shows the chart of the violence.

I'm just curious. It shows here, actually, the surge begins, really, about February 1st of '07, on the chart. And the numbers seem to come down -- are already down from the high mark earlier. Am I misreading that?

PETRAEUS: No, that is absolutely correct. In fact, there was actually quite a substantial drop in the month of February just with the announcement of the Baghdad security plan.

In fact, a number of, we think, Shia militia elements took a knee for a while to, sort of, sort out. I think, they did not realize that we did not have more than just the initial brigade on the ground.

But there's no question that the ethno-sectarian violence had crested really in December and was headed down at that time, although still at very, very high levels.

DODD: OK, well, again, I don't want to -- because we can go around and debate the statistics hear back and forth. The GAO, obviously, has a different set of conclusions, and others who argue about how well the surge is working, in terms of the level of violence.

But the whole purpose of it, of course, as you have been stating, and the ambassador has, is creating that space for the political process to move forward.

Now, we've lost some 700 troops, another 4,400, I think, have been injured in the time frame we've been there, in this past eight or nine -- eight months or so.

I was at Walter Reed recently, talking to a young man from Connecticut who lost his eye in Iraq. Would go back, by the way, this afternoon not an uncommon reaction from people serving.

And he said the following to me. And I'm almost quoting him for you, General.

I asked him about the surge and how it was working. He said to me -- he said, Senator, we'll spend a month, month and a half to clean out an area. He said, An hour and a half -- and I'm quoting him exactly here -- An hour and a half after we leave -- it may be an exaggeration, obviously -- after we leave, things are right back where they were before.

He went on to say, Look, the civilian population -- and, again, I'm quoting him. He said, They know where the IEDs are. They know where the ammo dumps are. They won't share that information with us here.

I'm looking at statistics this morning here, when asking, Do you think the increase in U.S. forces in Baghdad and surrounding provinces in the past months has made security better? 70 percent say, worse in the deployment areas 68 percent elsewhere in Iraq draw the same conclusions.

Another recent poll had 68 percent of Iraqis believed that the surge has hampered conditions for political reconciliation. Seventy percent believe the security has deteriorated as a result of this. Ninety-three percent of all Iraqi Sunnis think it's justifiable to kill Americans.

How do we justify this continuation?

And what makes us believe, given the failure over the past number of months on a number of key issues -- which Senator Lugar raised, Senator has Biden has raised -- the benchmarks that they set for themselves, completing a constitutional review, implementing laws to roll back the de- Baathification, enacting legislation related to oil revenue-sharing, amnesty, and outlawing and disarming militias all of those benchmarks, they've set for themselves, and yet we're seeing nothing getting better here at all.

And as General Jones recently pointed out in his own testimony, talking here, he said that, Long-term security advances in Iraq are impossible without political reconciliation, again, something both of you recognize here.

DODD: And yet, I don't seem to get any indication, don't get a feeling here that there's any real opportunity or optimism that this is going to get better.

All of the effort that's been made over the years, before the surge, how many conversations did President Bush have with the leadership in Iraq, Vice President Cheney, congressional leaders going over there?

We have been begging that leadership for the past 4.5 years to get their act together, begging them to do it, understanding that only they can do it.

And yet, you come here again this morning, four and a half years later, even after the surge -- we can argue about statistics, but no real indication that we're getting any closer to that.

What makes you possibly believe that anything further like this is going to produce the results that everyone else has failed to produce over the previous four and a half years?

PETRAEUS: What I draw some encouragement from, Senator, is, again, the activity that is ongoing, actually in the absence of legislation. There is, for example, no oil revenue sharing law that has been agreed. It's been proposed, but certainly not passed by the Council of Representatives.

But Iraq is actually sharing oil revenue, in fact, very similar to what is likely to happen if that -- the bill that's currently envisioned is passed.

In fact, as, when the ambassador was out in Anbar province, they increase the budget of Anbar province, a Sunni Arab province, a Shia government, Shia-majority government did that.

There is no general amnesty law. There is, actually, though, conditional immunity. That's the only description of what happens when former insurgents from a place like Abu Ghraib -- Sunni Arab, but right next to a Sunni-Shia faultline -- are allowed to attend the Iraqi police academy where they will graduate, some number of them, on the 10th of this month -- and others from another location.

That's a very significant step. And, candidly, that is what gives some encouragement. There are a number of examples of this where the big law, the national reconciliation has not taken place, but there are steps just happening. There are actions being taken that give you hope that they can indeed reconcile with one another, accommodate one another, and so forth.

We have worked very hard with the local piece. That is now supported by the Iraqis. We have a senior diplomat, a two-start British general, on the force reconciliation -- or the engagement cell, and Prime Minister Maliki has formed a national reconciliation committee that works with that cell to try to connect the national level actions, to move, for example, local volunteers onto the roles of the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense forces.

So they're paid nationally then. As you know, there's no local funding for police. And that has happened. That's what happened in Anbar province. And that's what gives some confidence that these tribes -- you know, certainly we applauded when they turned their weapons instead of on us on Al Qaida.

We have not armed them, by the way. We have not -- we don't have weapons to give to tribes or something like that. We have funded some of them for periods and then they've been moved onto the roles of these national ministries. That means that they're in a chain of command that extends to the top. It means that the budget is paid by the center. And in this case, a Sunni Arab minister of defense, but a Shia minister of interior has hired now, again, over some 20,000 or so police in Anbar province alone.

That's the type of activity that gives me some encouragement, even though, as the chairman correctly quoted from my letter to the troops, they have not met -- it is not worked out the way we had hoped with respect to the national legislation. But there have been these other activities that have given us some cause for hope.

DODD: Can I just quickly ask you, that young soldier at Walter Reed, is his views commonly held about the cooperation from the Iraqi population?

PETRAEUS: Sir, it -- I mean, there's 165,000 different views on the ground.

And if you go to Anbar province right now, they feel as if, you know, they're in the loving arms or their Sunni Arab citizens who shot at them, you know, six, eight months ago.

And it does change there's no question about it. And you can walk around the map and you could say, looking at it, literally: This is where they'll help you this is where they won't.

The fact is that we are getting a lot more help. I mean, that's the only explanation for the fact that we now have 4,400 weapons caches. We may have actually doubled the number that we got all of last year. And they're pretty substantial ones. And quite a few of them, in fact, are materials that would have been put into car bombs and so forth.

Thank you, sir.

BIDEN: Senator Hagel?

HAGEL: Mr. Chairman, thank you.

Gentlemen, welcome.

As Senator Dodd and others have noted this morning, every American is proud of the service of our American military and those who are serving in what ever capacity in a very difficult situation in Iraq. And we should not, at all, confuse the sense of support and the gratitude that all Americans have for your leadership and your service.

That said, we, just as you, each have responsibilities. We are elected by the people of our states. To question strategy is not unpatriotic.

Now, with that said, Ambassador, General, when you look at, and I know you have, the preceding reports that we have talked about today -- and you have added to with information numbers, General Jones' report, the General Accountability report.

I spent some time with Stuart Bowen, the I.G. for Iraq reconstruction. Of the latest national intelligence estimates, Anthony Cordesman's latest report. Thread throughout those reports, and then listening carefully to what the two of you said this morning, are some very bright line contradictions.

Now, let's start with one that almost everyone that I am aware of has said the core issue is, the most important issue, and that is political reconciliation.

And I have quotes from you, General Petraeus, and you, Ambassador Crocker, from the president, every senior member of our government, involved in our policy and our strategy in Iraq -- all agree, as you said, General Petraeus, that there will be no military solution in Iraq.

HAGEL: Now, when you look at the reports, let's start with the question I asked the comptroller general last week when I asked him his analysis of the current Iraqi government: Is it a functioning government? And his response to me was: At best, it is dysfunctional. You may disagree with that.

But when you take the sum total analysis of these reports that we've look at, they lead us to a pretty clear conclusion, that, in fact, this government in Iraq is dysfunctional.

And when you add further to what the chief of staff of the United States Army had to say, General Casey, about tactical effects of surges and how minimal they are, and how they will, as Admiral Fallon has said, quote, No amount of time or troops will make much difference, unless there is a political reconciliation, I doubt if either or you disagree with that analysis. If you do, please tell the committee why.

The other part of this is that it seems to me logical that when you flood a zone with more troops, when you put more troops in Baghdad or Anbar province, you're going to see some consequence to that, you're going to see some result.

So I don't think that's particularly news, that where we have inserted more American troops, costing more American lives, we've seen some differences.

But just as one of the most flawed dynamics of our policy invading Iraq four and a half years ago is we never had enough troops, we still don't have enough troops, so it seems to be logical that it would follow.

But when you look at the southern part of Iraq, which I noted that neither one of you noted today, one of the senior members of General Jones' task force said to me when he returned, We've probably lost southern Iraq.

I said, You must be kidding.

He said, No. He said the four provinces of southern Iraq are gone. They are lawless. There is no Iraqi national army down there. The police are corrupt, as indicated in General Jones' report, incidentally, as well as others.

The British used to have 40,000 troops in Iraq. As you well know, they are at about 5,000. They're huddled in the airport in Basra.

What I was told by not just this individual from General Jones' group, but other reports, intelligence reports and other reports I get, actually in the newspaper, is lawless gangs of marauders, of Shia militia, are in charge in Basra and those four provinces.

As you both know, two governors have been assassinated in the last two months. I was told by one individual who has been down there recently that we are actually essentially paying tribute to these people to keep open the port.

HAGEL: Now, the contradictions, in my mind, Ambassador and General, as much as you want to put a good picture on this, and that's partly, I understand, your job. And I understand it's your responsibility. And I don't question that you believe exactly what you have come before this committee to say.

But I have to ask this question: Where is this going?

Now, let's don't get down into the underbrush of the 18 benchmarks -- and by the way, let's clear some of the record on that -- those 18 benchmarks didn't come from the Congress of the United States. Those benchmarks came from the Iraqi government and this administration.

Somehow it's the Congress dictated these benchmarks. Well, we didn't. We didn't.

Well, let's not argue about who's got better numbers or better numbers in the context of more frequent numbers. Let's get above the underbrush and look at the strategic context, which, essentially, we have never done.

It's not your fault, General. It's not Ambassador Crocker's fault. It's this administration's fault. We have never, ever looked at Iraq from the larger strategic context, of not Iraq only but Iran, Syria, and the Middle East.

Now, where is this going to go?

Because the question that is going to continue to be asked -- and you all know it and you have to live with it -- and when you ask questions, as we all do, about is it worth it, the continued investment of American blood and treasure, when Senator Dodd presents to do the evaluation of one lonely enlisted man -- and by the way, I assume you read the New York Times piece two weeks ago -- seven NCOs in Iraq, today, finishing up 15 month commitments.

Are we going to dismiss those seven NCOs? Are they ignorant?

They laid out a pretty different scenario, General, Ambassador, from what you're laying out today.

Senator Biden said to me once -- I think it was on our first trip to Iraq. He turned around and I was gone. He said: Where did Senator Hagel go?

He found me out talking to the guys in the jeep, the corporals and the sergeants who have to do the dying and the fighting.

I've always found that, if you want an honest evaluation, and not through charts, not through the White House evaluations, you ask a sergeant or a corporal what they think.

I'll bet on them every time, as I know you will, General. I know you will.

HAGEL: Now, where is this going?

We have got too many disconnects here, General -- way too many disconnects.

Are we going to dismiss the five reports that I just noted?

I would say to you, Ambassador, one of your quotes: If we don't be careful we are going to see Iraq devolve into a civil war.

Come on. Our national intelligence report, earlier this year, said we're in a civil war. It is sectarian violence.

But yet you said that in your testimony this morning. You give us a great inventory of what a brutal, bloody dictator Saddam was. Well, we know that. That is not the issue here.

Are we going to continue to invest American blood and treasure at the same rate we are doing now, for what? The president said let's buy time. Buy time? For what?

Every report I've seen, and I assume both of you agree with this, there's been, really, very little, if any, political process that is the ultimate core issue, political reconciliation in Iraq.

I know my time is up, but I would appreciate, Mr. Chairman, if I could get an answer from these two gentlemen on that question. Thank you.

CROCKER: Thank you, Senator. I'll just touch very briefly on the key and critical points you raise here.

There is an enormous amount of dysfunctionality in Iraq. That is beyond question. The government, in many respects, is dysfunctional, and members of the government know it. There is a lot of discontent about that in and out of government. And, if you will, that is some qualified good news.

People who previously espoused a strict sectarian or ethnic line in how positions were apportioned, for example, are now saying: This isn't working. That is part of the debate in Iraq and a fairly common part of the debate. The application is going to be a lot more difficult, but Iraqis are talking about, precisely, that kind of dysfunctionality.

A second point I would make is on security and violence.

Iraq, in my judgment, almost completely unraveled in 2006, and the very beginning of 2007, as sectarian violence after February '06 just spiraled up.

Under those conditions, it is extremely difficult -- it is impossible to proceed with effective governance or an effective process of national reconciliation. It is just in the last couple of months that those levels of violence have come down in a measurable way.

And we can have lots of debate about what measure is used, but the one that as a foreign service officer that I take the most seriously is the perception among Iraq's leaders, all the main communities, that the security situation has improved.

That gives you an environment when you can start working on meaningful national reconciliation. And that's why I placed an emphasis in my statement on the need for Iraqis to work out these fundamental questions that are as yet unresolved. What is the state going to look like? What is the relation between the provinces and the center, and the provinces and each other?

That's still unresolved. Now they've got -- they're starting to get the space to work on it.

What I do point to as a moderately encouraging factor is that when security does improve, as we saw in Anbar, political life starts up again. For example, in Anbar now, every significant town has a municipal council, has an elected mayor. That was not the case six months ago.

We have also seen provinces and the center connecting to each other. And if there is one thing where the government is showing some functionality on, in marked difference to last year, is distributing revenues. Provincial budgets are being funded and are being funded in a reasonably equitable way. We do not hear from the Sunnis that they're getting shortchanged, for example.

So that suggests to me that, at a minimum now, we've got an environment developing, not fully developed, but developing with violence at low enough levels where a meaningful discussion on national reconciliation can take place. That's now what needs to happen.

PETRAEUS: Senator, first of all, with respect, my responsibility as I see it is not to give a good picture, it's to give an accurate picture, as forthright a picture as I can provide, and that is what I've tried to do.

Second, we certainly will not be at the same rate of forces. If the recommendations are approved, as I mentioned, the Marine expeditionary unit, 2,000-plus, will be coming out this month, and we'll then draw down one-quarter of our ground combat brigades and two additional Marine battalions.

BIDEN: General, point of clarification. Excuse me. Was that expeditionary force, they were scheduled to come out anyway, right?

PETRAEUS: Sir, they're scheduled to come out, but I could have easily requested an extension of them. And, in fact, we were -- I considered that. We did request an extension earlier, and that was granted. And, in fact, so we are now allowing them to go home.

BIDEN: Excuse me, again. You extended them to 15 months?

PETRAEUS: No, sir. This is a MEU that was a float MEU, came ashore a couple of months ago, was extended on the ground just to continue the work.

They're working north of Fallujah cleaning up a pocket of Al Qaida, allow the Iraqi army to go in there and to replace them in that area, and they will now go home without replacement. The key is, without replacement, actually.

The MEU is scheduled to rotate out, and that was going to happen, but we're not asking for the Central Command strategic reserve. Again, that's the point.

BIDEN: Thank you for your clarification.

PETRAEUS: And then, as I mentioned, the other forces. Another important point, Senator, is that many of the positive developments have not just been a result of additional forces. In some cases, they have. There's neighborhoods in Baghdad where we are sitting on a sectarian fault line trying to stabilize it, stop the (inaudible) that continues. It literally -- just this sectarian violence that never stops until the area is stabilized.

And there are some neighborhoods where we are, indeed, trying to do that. The seven sergeants are in one such neighborhood.

But in a number of cases, the progress is not just because of more forces sitting on a problem it's the result of a fundamental change on the ground. Nowhere is that more visible, obviously, than Anbar province where -- and this bears out the whole idea that it is about political change.

What happened in Anbar is politics. It was the result of tribes, sheikhs saying no more to Al Qaida. That's a political decision, to oppose an organization with which they were, at least tacitly, in league, and, perhaps, supporting. And that has happened in other areas now, as well.

In Diyala province, a very, very challenging area, mixed ethnic -- in fact, Sunni, Shiite and Kurd -- the sheiks have come together there and said, We reject extremism of any form, including, therefore, Shia militia extremism.

PETRAEUS: And the government, and we, are trying to help them build on that, how to use that to augment, to reinforce, build on the success that our soldiers and Iraqi forces achieved in clearing Baqouba of Al Qaida, to then hold it and continue that effort with the support, again, of the tribes. And that is hugely important because that is a shift.

Sunni Arabs, by and large, in Iraq for a number of years were supportive, at the least -- at least tacitly, again -- to Al Qaida because of their feelings of dispossession, disrespect, unemployment and a variety of other reasons. And that is an important development. That is an important phenomenon that we obviously want to work very hard to reinforce while ensuring that we still tie it into the center sufficiently so that it does not create additional problems down the road.

We are talking about really, sort of, finding who are the irreconcilables and trying to isolate them and then to help the Iraqi government to bring the reconcilables to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

And that is what has happened, again, most notably in Anbar but it is applicable to some degree in other areas, as well.

Thank you, sir.

BIDEN: Senator Kerry?

SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-MASS: Ambassador Crocker, General Petraeus, thank you very, very much for being here today. And, more importantly, thank you both and thank all of the diplomatic service and the troops for their remarkable sacrifices on our behalf. We are enormously grateful -- and respectful, may I add.

I want to ask a couple of questions of you, General, and also a couple of you, Ambassador Crocker. And it's difficult in the timeframes to do it so let me try to frame them, put them in a context and them let you answer.

First of all, let me say that this is a historic moment.

Not since the country heard from General Westmoreland almost 40 years ago has an active duty general played such an important role in a national debate with respect to security strategy.

So this is different and significant.

But I want to remind you and those who are following this that almost half the names that found their way to the Vietnam Wall after that testimony found their way there when our leaders had acknowledged, in retrospect, that they knew the policy was not working, and would not work.

And all you have to do is go back and read Defense Secretary McNamara's books and other histories of that period.

So obviously we dare not repeat those mistakes here, and that's why these judgments are really so critical. Our troops are owed a policy that is worthy of their sacrifice. And our country is owed a policy that meets our needs -- our national interest -- and that can ultimately get the job done.

What I fear, as I hear this analysis, is that we are passing by the sort of strategic, larger issue here and finding ourselves dealing with statistics and analysis that may have meaning as to one location or another, but doesn't have meaning as to the larger question of the strategic reconciliation necessary here, the political decision- making.

For all of your efforts, General, for all of the efforts of our troops, they can't make the Iraqis make the decisions they have to make.

So one question is: Is it acceptable that young Americans are dying and being grievously wounded while Iraqi politicians delay and delay and delay meeting their own standards?

Secondly, in the south, as Senator Hagel has mentioned, is it acceptable that the British redeploy to an airbase and leave four southeastern provinces where 30 percent of the Iraqi population is and 80 percent of the oil revenues and leave it to local militia to fundamentally fight it out under Iranian influence?

If that is acceptable, then why is it not acceptable to other parts of the country? And if it's not acceptable, what are we going to do about it?

Third question, Ambassador Crocker, with respect to the reconciliation and diplomacy. It really has to be emphasized that 15 months after the Maliki government has come to power their own commitments are not being met. This is not something Congress put forward, it's not something the administration dreamt up. They said to us: Measure us by these benchmarks.

And here we are now, after the escalation of forces, making that measurement. Why is it not appropriate that they should be held to their own standards. And isn't it, in fact, moving goal posts to suggest, well, we're not really going to look at the benchmark itself, we're going to look at the activity underneath and find out whether or not that is adequate?

It clearly is not adequate when the fundamental issue is, how long can you continue to ask our troops to make these kinds of sacrifices where you don't have the fundamentals of the political reconciliation necessary.

Now, you've pointed to Anbar province. Anbar province, you have to show us how that is relevant to the reconciliation nationally, because every indicator is those sheiks decided they were tired of having their daughters raped and their sons beheaded and their towns blown up by Al Qaida, and they've made an accommodation with us, not with the national reconciliation, in order to avoid that from happening. That makes sense.

But in the end, if we've armed them and trained them and there is no national reconciliation, have we simply made more complicated the question of how you resolve the civil war that is ongoing?

The only way this is resolved is through that reconciliation. When the war started, Baghdad was 65 percent Sunni. Today Baghdad is 75 or so percent Shia.

And one of the reasons the violence is down is because there's been this enormous dislocation of the population. The middle class has left. And you have, you know, a, sort of, soft, if you will -- some have called it -- kind of partition already taking place.

So, help us, please, Mr. Ambassador, to understand, why are you not moving the goalposts?

Why should we not hold the Iraqi government itself accountable to its own standards?

And why is there any indication of that reconciliation that will now, effectively, take place when you said you're going to leave 130,000 troops, which is where we were last year when Iraq almost fell apart.

That's what you're telling the American people will be there next year and next summer. And having told that to the Iraqis, what's the leverage to make them make the decisions they've been unwilling to make to this moment?

Three questions.

CROCKER: If I could start -- again, I think we all agree we clearly agree that the essence of the issue here is national reconciliation, political reconciliation.

I think, at the same time, we've got to acknowledge the clear linkage between security conditions, levels of violence said, and the capacity of people in an environment to move meaningfully toward reconciliation.

Those security conditions, those necessary security preconditions, simply have not existed over the last year and a half.

I agree completely. The country almost came apart, completely, in the course of 2006.

KERRY: With 130,000 troops there.

CROCKER: And that process is what led to the recommendations of our predecessors that we needed to assume a role of population security, and that is what we are now doing. And it is making a difference.

But it is going to take time. It is not just a switch that you flip, that as the surge starts to make a real difference, at the beginning of the summer, then everyone is prepared to sit down and make historic compromises. That is going to take time and effort. Will it succeed, how fast will it succeed, in what form will it succeed? I do not know.

I do agree very much with Senator Lugar on this issue of benchmarks. The benchmarks are important and they are Iraqi. But, at the same time, we got to maintain enough strategic and tactical flexibility here, I think, to recognize when things are happening that may be moving toward reconciliation, that does not line up exactly with a benchmark, which is why I talked, as did General Petraeus, about the things going on with amnesty, with de facto de- Baathification reform, some of the other issues related to benchmarks.

We got to find ways to identify and encourage those things.

So, again, it is not simply an issue of a government and a leadership that is dithering, incapable, unwilling. It is a set of circumstances that, for the last year and a half, had made meaningful reconciliation somewhere between very hard and outright impossible.

Those conditions are changing. Now, they are going to have to move ahead to take advantage of the time and the space, but the time and the space is really just -- it's really just starting in the course of this summer. It's not something they have been squandering over the last year or more.

In terms of Anbar, and not to overemphasize this one particular province, but there are things there that are of broader significance, and I think it is important to understand them.

It isn't at all only about us and the Anbaris. That has been a key element of our focus since the beginning of this process, to ensure that what happens in Anbar is linked to the center in ways that are agreeable to both the center and the province.

That's why the 21,000 young Anbaris who have come aboard as police officers and who graduated, I guess, yesterday, that's why that's important. The central government has them on the central government's payroll to maintain security in their own province. That's why the readiness of the government, the central government, to provide additional resources to the province to meet its reconstruction needs and to pay compensation is also important.

So you're seeing a process working in Anbar that obviously is important in and of itself, but it's also important in the way the two entities, the province and the center, have managed to establish some working linkages.

Can that be replicated?

CROCKER: No, it can't be done so in a cookie-cutter fashion, but in Diyala, a much more complex situation, Kurd, Shia, Sunni, all intermingled there, we're seeing some of the same phenomenon. A rejection of radicals, a desire to get on with reconstruction and development and expectation of the central government to support that.

So that, to me, is the stage for, at least, a reconciliation process that may actually mean something, and I think we've got to follow it and encourage it.

PETRAEUS: Senator, I won't repeat what the ambassador just said, but I do want to talk about the south. First, with respect to this local accommodation that is taking place, really, conditional immunity again, we are seeing that even in Baghdad neighborhoods. For example, Ghazaliya, Amiriya and Adhamiya all were Al Qaida strongholds as little as just a few months ago. Adhamiya has just begun turning in the last month or so, but already local volunteers are coming forward.

And, again, the key with that is to make sure that it is tied into the central government through the national reconciliation committee that they had set up, so that they become legitimate security force members and not the fixed site security elements that we have literally hired them to be in the interim to help maintain the momentum against Al Qaida in those areas. Because those have changed completely, those particular areas.

KERRY: I know my time is up, and I don't want to abuse it. But if I could just say, General, the issue has never been Iraqi versus Al Qaida, because everybody has always had confidence they didn't want foreign jihadists and they'll kick them out one time or another.

The issue is this reconciliation. And the question is -- they're really too different, fundamental...

PETRAEUS: Well, again, the local accommodation that is represented by the Iraqi government, a Shia majority government, Prime Minister Maliki's office reconciliation committee enabling these individuals to be hired -- to be trained and hired in the Ministry of Interior, for example -- that's what I'm really getting at. And that is reconciliation. It may not be the reconciliation law. Candidly, that is what gives me, again, some hope.

BIDEN: General, isn't it the truth, though -- let's get this fact out about reconciliation -- isn't it true that the reason why you got this deal is the Anbaris weren't going to allow any national police in their streets?

What you did is you made a deal. They're paying for their own cops. It wasn't until you guys said, You can hire your own. Go out there, tribal chiefs, tell your sons to join. We'll guarantee only -- only -- Sunnis will be there in your neighborhood. Isn't that what happened?

PETRAEUS: Well, Senator, again, the idea here is that local police should be local. There were not local police in the past because they didn't have the courage to raise their hands.

We had to close the police academy in Anbar province over two years ago, and just reopened it about two months ago. There were no volunteers. It didn't matter what you said. We wanted volunteers for the Iraqi army and the local police in Anbar.

And they stopped raising their hand about two years ago when so many of them had their families killed, kidnapped, tortured, and so forth, and they themselves were treated the same way.

So, it took, really, sort of a critical mass of tribal leaders joining with our forces that were augmented at that time to clear a place like Ramadi. Ramadi was not going to be cleared by tribes alone. It took hard combat fighting, in cities, urban combat. And it was tough.

But it is now clear, and they are now very much invested in keeping it clear.

And, again, having local police is a concept that we had tried to do for years in Iraq but were unsuccessful because we couldn't get Sunni Arabs to stay in the force.

Now, with respect to solutions in the Shia south, there are four provinces in Multi-National Division-Southeast. Two of those are doing fine, frankly. Muthanna province, even though the governor was assassinated, we're pretty certain by militia extremists, continues to stay fine. They will have a new governor. They'll work out OK. And there are no coalition forces whatsoever in Muthanna province. It went to provincial Iraqi control last year.

That has the capital Samawah (ph).

Dhi Qar province, which has Nasiriyah, there have been efforts by militia extremists to take on the legitimate -- and, by the way, again, in Muthanna it's legitimate Iraqi security forces, army elements and police that are providing the security there. Very, very low level of violence until this recent assassination of the governor.

In Dhi Qar province, the capital of Nasiriyah, we have a single U.S. special forces team, there's an Australian battalion focused primarily on civil military operations. And, again, that province doing really quite well.

And those forces there led by -- you know, again, this comes down to leadership, and when you find a good Iraqi leader, Colonel Abu Lika (ph), who has been wounded a couple of times, but his forces have stood up very much to the militia extremists and even pursued them beyond Nasiriyah to neighboring cities.

And then they all -- then the tribes get together and there's some negotiations. But that is -- that's OK. That is an Iraqi solution that works in the Shia south.

These solutions are not necessarily transferable, however, to mixed areas or others.

With respect to another province down there, Maysan province, that's the marsh Arabs, Maysan province has never been controlled by any Iraqi government. It's not been controlled in the past few years really.

I mean, again, the marsh Arabs are going to do what the marsh Arabs are going to do. And that's really what they have been doing, provincial Iraqi control a few months ago, and they'll come to their Iraqi solutions.

Basra province, very, very important to Iraq, of course, the ports, the oil, and all the rest of that all flows through there. The British did a good hand-off to a force that was trained and equipped and certified to hand off the palace. They had earlier handed off the logistical base and other bases, consolidating at the airport.

PETRAEUS: They have a number of important tasks. In fact, I will go home -- or it is home now Iraq -- I'll go back to Iraq through London and talk to them with the Ministry of Defense and the prime minister to discuss the tasks and make sure we have a common sight picture on that.

Beyond that, Prime Minister Maliki put a pretty strong -- a very strong four-star general down there as the Basra operations command commander several months ago. That has already had a salutary effect. There is no question but that there is a competition down there between the Fadila (ph) Party, the supreme council, the Badr corps, and certainly Sadr's party and militia.

Interestingly, there have been deals there recently and the violence level has just flat plummeted. It's included some release of some Jaish al-Mahdi figures, again, accommodations between all of them.

Again, for the Shia south, that's probably OK. These are Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems. The problem is that that does not necessarily transfer to a province that has mixed ethno-sectarian identities such as Diyala, Baghdad, or some of the others.

BIDEN: Thank you, Gentlemen.

PETRAEUS: Thank you, sir.

BIDEN: Senator Coleman?

SEN. NORM COLEMAN, R-MINN. : Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, first thank you for your extraordinary service. General, I will say to you that I found the attacks on your credibility, personal attacks, by moveon.org to be really despicable and I would hope that it would be roundly rejected and we need to put the politics aside in this issue, if we can, listen to your troops on the ground, try to figure out the way forward.

I had a chance when I was in Ramadi, about nine days ago, to listen to some of those troops on the ground, one of them was a Captain Marcus Maines (ph), he was at the Joint Security Station (inaudible) right in Ramadi. Marines are good, not just at killing foreign fighters and Al Qaida, but he was rebuilding a town. Had bulletin boards in the neighborhoods.

And he had a loudspeaker system to, at times, play the Iraqi national anthem. He was rebuilding a city. As a former mayor, I understood what he was trying to do.

I met with the mayor of Ramadi, who was talking about -- they've got Lake Habaniyah there, and he was talking about, you know, a resort area.

Well, every one of his buildings are filled with bullet holes. That's a long-term vision. And that's my -- I appreciate the hope, but here's the concern.

Ambassador Crocker, you talk about it's going to take time it's going to take time. Between now and next March or April, there are going to be ups and downs in Iraq.

There -- you know, maybe more folks will pull out of the government. I suspect we'll see efforts by Al Qaida. And they have the ability to commit massive violence, massive violence.

They may be on the run, but they're clearly not out. And so, as we listen to the American people on this issue, what I think we do need, what we don't even have now, in spite of this testimony, is, Ambassador, objective measures of progress.

It's one thing to say that, well, benchmarks aren't an end to themselves, but can you offer us -- can we lay on the table something, so that when we have the next downturn and we have the next pullout, when we have the next, you know, fissure between Sunni and Shia, that we at least have some objectives measures to say that we are on a path to progress.

This is about -- we talk about reconciliation. It's about power- sharing. It's power-sharing. It's reconciliation, perhaps, between Sunni and Shia. It's power -- in Baghdad. It's power-sharing between central government in Baghdad and Anbar. And it's power-sharing in the southern provinces between Shia and Shia.

So that's there. So, for you, my question would be, can you offer us -- can we put on the table objective measures that we can then look at and come back to, when things get shaky, to determine if we're on a course to success.

And, General, for you, it would be perhaps the same thing. Americans want to see light at the end of the tunnel.

COLEMAN: And it's one thing to say, and I applaud the troop drawdown this year. I applaud the fact we'll be at pre-surge levels next year.

But, again, because there are going to be these attacks, there are going to be these things that clearly undermine American confidence that we are in fact continuing with progress, we need to see some plan out there.

The Peace Institute had a -- which was composed of many of the folks involved in the Iraqi Study Group, they came out with something the other day that said we could get down to half the number of troops we have now in three years, a total turning over of bases five years.

They don't say it, but I suspect you'd have to have the U.N. in there, We're going to be in Iraq a long time, but, much as we're in Kosovo, it doesn't have to be America fighting the fight, but the Iraqis.

So, General, is it -- for you, can we get a longer term vision? Can we get a longer term plan? Can we say that, yes, we can be down to half our troops in three years? We can get to five years we can be turning over the bases and some other paradigm?

But I think that we need something a little more than say give us more time to come back again in the fall.

So, Ambassador, if you could respond.

And, General, if you could respond.

CROCKER: Thank you, Senator.

What I look to are the continuation or initiation of processes, again, more than fixed decisions. Benchmarks go two ways, in my view, as a potential misleading indicator. And one of them is I believe Iraqis could hit all of the benchmarks and still not achieve national reconciliation.

So how can we better define what national reconciliation looks like if it is there or if it's not there?

I think we've already got processes out there that we can keep an eye on and see if the Iraqis are able to further expand them in the months ahead. The association, again, between the central government and the provinces -- is the central government able to increase its ability to support provincial efforts at reconstruction and rebuilding? And are the provinces, if they get resources, able to execute budgets on behalf of their citizenry?

Because an awful lot of this is about resources, services, equitable distributions. So that's one. That presupposes -- and this, I think, is crucial, that levels of violence stay down and go down further. As General Petraeus said in his opening remarks, this has been and ethno-sectarian competition for power and resources.

The question now -- the critical question for Iraqis and, ultimately, for ourselves, is whether, under changing conditions, the competition, before it hopefully evolves into something that is not purely ethnic-sectarian-based, whether that competition increasingly translates into a political, as opposed to -- a political competition as opposed to a street fight. So I think that's going to be key.

A third element that I would look at is one that, as several of your colleagues have alluded to, and that's the militias.

Is the central government, with our support as necessary and appropriate, able to begin taking apart the militias?

As I mentioned, we've seen some early promising indication of a popular backlash against Jaish al-Mahdi. Does that translate into popular intolerance for Jaish al-Mahdi among Shia communities as we saw among Sunni communities with respect to Al Qaida? And, if so, and even if not, is the government increasingly able to take on these militias?

So that would be three kind of interlinked areas that I'm certainly going to have my eye on as we move forward.

And, you know, there are kind of sub-points. Population displacement. They have slowed, as far as I can tell, but they haven't stopped. They need to stop and then they need to begin to reverse. That would be an indication also, obviously, of an advancing national reconciliation process, and it's something that one can point to that is to some degree measurable.

So that's what I would offer at this point.

COLEMAN: Thank you.

General?

PETRAEUS: Well, Senator, first of all, I very much agree with your assessment of Al Qaida-Iraq.

That organization -- terrorist organization is off balance, but it remains very dangerous. We know that it is trying to reignite ethno-sectarian violence in the way that it did in February 2006, with the bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra. They tried it again, as you recall, several months ago and took down the Minarets of that mosque.

And it probably would have gotten out of hand again had it not been for the unified and swift response by government of Iraqi leaders of all ethno-sectarian groupings' standing together, literally, and denouncing it and calling for calm, and so forth -- and also very swift action by the ministries of defense and interior and the prime minister, in fact, literally, flying there personally, standing on the ground, ordering some reinforcements and so forth and rapidly carrying that out.

But there is no question: We see the intel that Al Qaida is trying to open new fronts in certain locations. They have been run out of a lot of areas, killed or captured in substantial numbers, but they remain a very, very dangerous foe, an adaptable foe, and one that, again, wants to retain sanctuaries in Iraq and to continue to inflict enormous death and destruction on the Iraqi people.

Looking to the future, you saw the final chart that I used that showed a stair step. Although the timing of that is to be determined, as I mentioned, that reflects planning. That does reflect our sense of how we would like this to play out, both in terms of reductions of forces overtime and the shift of the missions going increasingly from leading, again, to partnering, to the various forms of overwatch as we transition responsibilities to Iraqi forces.

The fact is, we are already in that mix. We have already literally handed off certain provinces completely, as I mentioned, several in the south. We'll hand off Karbala here in about a month or so as well, an then others over time. And then in other cases we have shifted to various forms of partnering, but still certainly in some of the very tough neighborhoods in Baghdad in particular, still in the lead or partnering.

BIDEN: General, I hate to interrupt you, but let me suggest to my colleagues that the method of using your five minutes to ask 10 minutes' worth of responses is never going to get us to the end here.

So, General, thank you for your answer.

Senator Feingold?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD, D-WIS. : Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

And thank you both for testifying here today.

Ambassador, I want to thank you for all the time you've given me over the years, especially when we were in Pakistan, and your briefings on that critical country.

And, General, on both occasions that I was in Iraq, the time you spent helping me understand these variety of issues. I, too, thank you for your service.

But, Mr. Chairman, it is simply tragic that six years to the day after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, our attention is so focused on what has been the greatest mistake in the fight against Al Qaida, and that's the Iraq war.

Both yesterday at the House hearings and today there has been virtually no reference by either the members of Congress or the witnesses to the broader context outside of Iraq.

I strongly supported the decision to go to war in Afghanistan, which served as a sanctuary for Al Qaida. The war in Iraq has been a terrible diversion from Afghanistan and from what should be a global fight against a global enemy.

As this summer's declassified NIE confirmed, Al Qaida remains the most serious threat to the United States, and key elements of that threat have been regenerated or even enhanced.

While our attention and resources have been focused on Iraq, Al Qaida has protected its safe haven in Pakistan and increased cooperation with regional terrorist groups.

So the question we must answer is not whether we are winning or losing in Iraq, but whether Iraq is helping or hurting our efforts to defeat Al Qaida. That is the lesson of 9/11, and it's a lesson we must remember today, and I would say every single day.

And in that vein, this past July President Bush referred to Al Qaida more than 90 times in a single speech about Iraq and has repeatedly called Iraq the central front or the key theater in the war on terror, but this is misleading at best, as is the effort to suggest that Al Qaida is the primary driver of violence in Iraq.

While AQI may give Al Qaida an extended reach, our extreme focus on Iraq I think prevents us from adequately addressing the global nature of Al Qaida and from targeting sufficient resources, whether they're military, diplomatic, intelligence or financial, to other parts of the world where Al Qaida is operating.

Mow, Senator Hagel mentioned some of the other places. He mentioned Iran, he mentioned Syria, he mentioned the Middle East. But what about Africa?

Last week, for example, two bombs exploded in Algeria, killing more than 50 people and wounding scores more.

FEINGOLD: Both explosions were virtually unnoticed here in the United States, as were the ones that exploded in the same region this past April and that were claimed by, as you both know, another Al Qaida affiliate, known as Al Qaida in the Islamic Magreb.

So I'd like to ask first, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, do you believe that the United States is providing sufficient resources to address the threat posed by Al Qaida in the Islamic Magreb?

Ambassador?

CROCKER: Senator, frankly, that takes me a little bit beyond my area of expertise. I don't focus on the Magreb. I could say a few things based on my two and half years in Pakistan, and of course I went directly from Pakistan to Iraq in March, that is, the presence of Al Qaida in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border area is a major challenge to us.

FEINGOLD: How concerned are you about Al Qaida's safe haven in Pakistan?

CROCKER: We're all -- we're all quite concerned.

FEINGOLD: Which is more important to defeating Al Qaida, the situation in Afghanistan or that situation in Iraq, Ambassador?

CROCKER: I'd say just one...

FEINGOLD: That's surely within your expertise.

CROCKER: Yes, sir.

FEINGOLD: I mean, you were ambassador to one and ambassador to the other.

CROCKER: Yes, sir, which is why I'm addressing this.

The challenges in confronting Al Qaida in the Pak-Afghan border area are immense, and they're complicated. I did not feel, from my perspective as ambassador to Pakistan, that the focus, the resources, the people needed to deal with that situation, weren't available or weren't there because of Iraq.

FEINGOLD: What's more important, though, to fighting Al Qaida, the situation in Pakistan or the situation in Iraq?

CROCKER: Senator, in my view, fighting Al Qaida is what's important whatever front they're on. Fighting Al Qaida in Pakistan is critically important to us, fighting Al Qaida in Iraq is critically important to us.

FEINGOLD: But Ambassador, surely -- surely in a war, you have to have priorities. Some are more important than others.

I would like to ask the general his response. What about the situation that we find in North Africa and the other regions? You obviously must take this into account in thinking about your role in Iraq.

PETRAEUS: I am not in a position to comment on the resources we have committed to the Maghrib or to other areas. General McCrystal does brief us about once a week on the overall situation, but it is clearly with a focus to how that is affecting Al Qaida in Iraq.

For what it's worth, he, the commander of the joint special operations command, and the CIA director, when I talked to them a couple of months ago, agreed that their belief is that Al Qaida central seize Al Qaida in Iraq as their central front in their global war on terror.

That seems confirmed by the communications that we periodically see between Al Qaida central and Al Qaida-Iraq, although that could be changing as a result of the loss of momentum, to some degree, by Al Qaida-Iraq and it's something that we need to keep an eye on, clearly.

FEINGOLD: With all due respect, these two critical leaders here in our government, who I have great respect for, are not willing to seriously comment about how this relates to the larger global fight against terrorism -- the allocation of resources.

This is a classic example of myopia. This is the myopia of Iraq that is affecting our ability to look at this as the global challenge it is.

FEINGOLD: And by the way, General, I'd like to know, when will the level of American troops's deaths start to seriously decline in Iraq?

PETRAEUS: First of all, if I could just come back to your earlier comment, with respect, Senator, what this is is an example of a commander focused on his area of responsibility area. And that is my mission. It is to accomplish the military tasks that are associated with this policy, not to fight the overall global war.

FEINGOLD: I respect that and I understand, but I guess, in the broader context, here, of our discussions, this is the most critical hearing we've had and yet it's only about Iraq.

But go ahead and please answer the question: When can we expect the troop deaths to decline in Iraq?

PETRAEUS: It might be, again, that Admiral Fallon or others would be the ones that, or the chairman, to comment on that.

There has been a gradual reduction in deaths in Iraq, since about June, I believe it was. That, unfortunately -- in August, we suffered a number of non-combat related deaths due to two helicopter crashes, although the number of combat deaths was lower.

FEINGOLD: General, just let me follow...

PETRAEUS: We need to see what happens in ensuing months.

FEINGOLD: I want the American people to know that in every single month this year, January, February, March, April, May, June, July, and August, a significantly greater number of troops died than in the previous month in 2006 -- in every single month.

And according to my information, there's already 32 this month. So, to suggest that there was some decline in the number in June and July, versus other months, does not address the fact that the number of troops' deaths has greatly increased. And I'm not getting an answer that even begins to suggest when we can tell the American people that the number of troop deaths will decline.

PETRAEUS: Senator, we are on the offensive, and when you go on the offensive, you have tough fighting. That was particularly true, again, during the period immediately after the start of the surge of offenses in mid-June and continued for a while. It appeared to have crested then and was coming down. And, again, we will have to see. We had a tragic loss yesterday, in fact, in some vehicle accidents, that again, you know, are just very, very sad.

Thank you, sir.

FEINGOLD: Thank you, Chairman.

BIDEN: Thank you, General.

Senator Corker?

CORKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

First of all, I want to thank you both for your service. I understand I know I am new here, and I understand I'm at a semi-low point in the way we do things. And I regret that, while people certainly have the ability to criticize policies and judgments, it is taken on the note of criticizing or questioning integrity. And I want to say to both of you, I regret that and I want thank you for your service and the service of our men and women.

I also have noticed that we tend to look at governing in Iraq as being, apparently, less difficult than it is here. We want to hold them to standards, and yet we have issues that we've talked about for generations here that still are not dealt with. We not only do not deal with the issues, sometimes we did not even talk about dealing with the issues.

So I would like to move to that point, talking about the benchmarks, if you will, that the Iraqi government has set out for itself, like we do many times and never achieve.

Unlike us, where we ride from nice homes to the Senate and work out in nice gyms, they're in a little bit different situation. And there's been, I guess some discussion that we need to leverage them into doing the right thing, that the way we do that is to pull troops out and cause them to take more of their own responsibility, and that somehow that's going to, if you will, leverage them into doing things that they're now not doing.

And I'd like for both of you, if you will, to respond to that, because my sense is that may be one of the recommendations, if you will, that comes forth from the Senate.

Thank you, Senator. That is a key question, because obviously we spend our time working out what the full range of the instruments of national power we have to leverage outcomes in Iraq that are favorable to our interest and Iraq's future. So this is a legitimate question to ask.

I think we have to be very careful with that, frankly. The Iraqis are keenly aware that we may change our posture, we may go away entirely, we may go away entirely sooner rather than later -- they know all that. They also know that they're going to be there forever.

And I would be concerned that an approach that says we're going to start pulling troops, regardless of the objective conditions on the ground and what might happen in consequence of that, could actually push the Iraqis in the wrong direction, to make them less likely to compromise rather than more likely.

It would make them, I would fear, more focused on, you know, building the walls, stocking the ammunition and getting ready for a big, nasty street fight without us around than it would push them toward compromise and accommodation with the people who would be on the other side of that fight.

Iraqis are aware that the patience of the American people is not limitless in this matter, and that has, I think, been a helpful prod with the Iraqi leadership to push them forward, as we saw this summer.

But to directly tie troop levels to achievement of political reconciliation goals I think could make achievement of those goals less likely rather than more.

General Petraeus, any comment?

PETRAEUS: Well, I share the ambassador's view with respect to that.

There are some steps that we've taken. These are a bit more tactical, if you will. But we can literally withdraw support for certain elements of the Iraqi security forces, and there's a variety, we can say, We'll stop working with you, we're going to stop helping your logistics.

As the commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq in the late summer 2005, I withdrew all support to the major crimes unit, because of an investigation that revealed that they had been engaged in abusing detainees.

So there are actions like that that can be taken to encourage, force, require action on their part, but when it gets up to the level of national legislation, I think that's an awfully tough, tough question, frankly.

I think that the ambassador and his colleagues in the embassy worked quite skillfully with the five leaders of Iraq who convened for the summit several weeks ago after a number of weeks of preparation, and did achieve a modestly encouraging outcome from that.

But the idea of -- again, threatening to withdraw may harden something that we're trying to soften. So there's a very, very real issue -- a feel for what we think might happen in such a case.

CORKER: On the issue of, I guess, the troop drawdowns that you've talked about, I assume they've been calibrated to the buildup and the ability of the Iraqi army to do their work -- do the work themselves. And you calibrated that as finely as you can.

We -- that is correct. In some cases -- and again, there are fits and starts. It's uneven, as I said. And that, I think, is an honest assessment of the progress. There is progress the progress is uneven.

In one case, we actually shifted some forces out of Anbar Province way before I'd certainly thought we would, say six or seven months ago, we moved a battalion from Anbar, an army battalion over into the adjacent province to the east of it.

So we'll be making tactical adjustments, if you will. But we have sat down and figured out the so-called battlefield geometry projecting out to where we want to be by mid-July of next year and then try to figure, again, how to best get there.

And that is a big factor, frankly, in our starting by withdrawing the first brigade without replacement in mid-December vice running the surge all the way, say, to every brigade staying for 15 months.

In fact, in some cases we'll replace the surge brigade, geographically, or in its area of responsibility -- because that's an important area that's why we put it there -- and actually thin out our withdraw, without replacement, a brigade in another area in which things are going better.

PETRAEUS: And a key component of that certainly is the Iraqi security force, a key component of which increasingly is, again, local volunteers who are standing up, as I said, in a way that, particularly in Sunni Arab areas, was not the case in the past.

BIDEN: Senator, I hate to do this, but your time is up. And in order for us to get finished, we have another 84 minutes.

Gentlemen, it's overwhelmingly in your interest to make your answers shorter, if you can, in order for people to be able to ask their questions. I realize this is a difficult process, but I don't know any other way to do it.

Senator Boxer?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER, D-CALIF: Thanks, Mr. Chairman.

Gentlemen, thank you for your service. I represent 37 million people, so you can imagine how many letters I get about the Iraq war. I get letter after letter, asking me how long we'll be in Iraq.

I tell them it depends on who the president is and how many votes there are in the Congress to change course. And as for my own views, I tell them this war is the biggest foreign policy mistake ever.

It took our eye off defeating the terrorists, led by Osama bin Laden, who killed out people, six years ago today the greatest mistake because it strained our military, our National Guard -- in California, Gentlemen, we are short 50 percent in our equipment to respond to an earthquake, and the secretary of the Army said we'd be in trouble if there was a major earthquake -- the greatest mistake because we've lost so many of our own and so many are wounded, who we will be dealing with for years and years.

It breaks our hearts, all of our hearts.

BOXER: The biggest mistake because we've lost the support of the world, when we had the whole world in our hand after 9/11.

So I want to go back to when I first met you, General Petraeus. We had a good meeting. I don't know if you remember it I sure do. And I have a picture of Senator Reid, Murray, and myself, Senator Durbin. At that point, you were in charge of training the troops, the Iraqis.

You were so upbeat, general. You told me, I will never forget it, we were sitting in a armored vehicle, you said, You're about to see some terrific troops. We're going to have them ready to go. You talked about over 100,000 of them at that time. And the fact is I was very upbeat after that meeting. I have all of the documentation. I ask unanimous consent to put in all the documentation...

BIDEN: Without objection, it will be put in record.

BOXER: And so the point was the Iraqis were going to take this over and you were as optimistic as anyone I have ever seen on the point.

Now, that's what the Brits have done and that's what Senator Kerry talked about. They said they were redeploying out of Basra, because they said, quote, It makes sense to hand over to Iraqi forces. They went outside and redeployed to the perimeter -- to the airport.

In my visit to London, two weeks ago, the foreign policy people told me that they had to get out because they were viewed as occupiers, not liberators, and they were targets. They said 90 percent of the violence, they felt, was coming because they were there.

Now, let's look at some of our casualties since the surge. It's been referred to by several colleagues. I have them on a chart.

To me, this speaks volumes about this. The deadliest summer for U.S. forces in Iraq -- since the surge began.

Now, I think the notion of being seen as occupiers is key. And this is what you said about being seen as occupiers -- if we could hold that quote up by General Petraeus. I'm rushing through this because of time limits. I'm sorry.

You said in '03, We want to be seen as an army of liberation, not an army of occupation. There's a half life on our role here. You wear out your welcome at some point. It doesn't matter how helpful you are. We aren't here to stay.

Now, let's see what the seven sergeants and staff sergeants said in an article referred to by Senator Hagel: We need to recognize our presence may have released the Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but it's also robbed them of their self-respect, their dignity. And they're calling us what we are, an army of occupation and force our withdrawal. Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins, but let them resolve their own differences.

I don't consider the surge a nuanced policy. It's killing our soldiers at a great rate.

I think that we need to look at reality. Senator Biden talked to you about what the comptroller general said, and you're going to argue about it? I think the comptroller general ought to be listened to. He says you're cherry picking your numbers in terms of the overall violence.

Let's listen to what General Casey has said. And I'd ask -- well, we have consent to put that in the record. He says that, in essence, the surge has only a temporary tactical effect.

Let's look at the poll both of you tried to discredit yesterday. ABC, BBC, a Japanese station, 42 percent of Iraqis say their children will have a worse life, 25 percent say it will be no better, that. 67 percent say that their kid's life will not be better than their own, 70 percent say the surge is making matters worse.

Is that what our troops are dying for?

I ask you to take off your rosy glasses. You had them on in '05. I believed you. I thought for sure we were going to see the Iraqis take over their own defense.

Now, the president is the commander in chief. If anyone disagrees with that, let me know. The commander in chief is the president. He makes the policy. You carry it out. And if you don't want to carry it out, I think you just need to leave your post.

Now, this is the president who said mission accomplished and thousands of our own died. Then he said, bring it on, and more and more died. And just the other day he was quoted in the Australian press as saying, We're kicking A-S-S in Iraq. And since then, six days, we lost 28 soldiers in six days, since this president said that.

Who wants to keep this course? Not the Iraqis, not the American people, not the majority of the Senate and the House. Seventy percent of the Iraqis say the surge is making matters worse. Ninety percent of the Sunnis want us gone. Eighty percent of the Shia want us out.

So we are sending out troops where they're not wanted, with no end in sight, in the middle of a civil war, in the middle of the mother of all mistakes.

So, please, General, I ask you, please don't do what you did in '04, when you painted a rosy scenario in an op-ed piece, that turned out to be wrong like you did in '05, when you told us, and we believed you, that the Iraqis were just about there they were going to take over their own defense.

And please consider that others could be right, the Brits, General Casey, Comptroller General, Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean, who just wrote -- just wrote -- in an op-ed piece -- just wrote -- that our presence in Iraq is recruiting terrorists for Al Qaida.

Listen to the Iraqi people, the American people, the majority of the Congress.

My question is, and I know I've run out of time, so I will have to take it in writing, but it's a very important one. Don Rumsfeld said, no more than six months would this war last.

How long will it take, now that we've spent $20 billion and we've trained 350,000 Iraqis in counterinsurgency -- when, General Petraeus, can they take over their own defense?

Call me old-fashioned. You have a country you defend it. Thank you.

BIDEN: Thank you very much. If you could respond to that in writing, I'd appreciate it. Thank you.

Senator Sununu?

SEN. JOHN E. SUNUNU, R-N.H.: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you both for being here.

For people that may be just seeing you on television or in the public for the first time, I think it's worth mentioning that you have been taking on incredibly difficult jobs, not just for a few months or even a few years but for a few decades, I think, in both cases. And you really are to be saluted for that.

I will take my question-and-answer time to ask questions, if it's all right with the committee and the witnesses.

I want to begin with you, Ambassador Crocker. There's been a lot of discussion about areas of improvement, Anbar, Diyala, locally driven. And I think that has been fairly well recognized.

But there is a simple concern. There probably many concerns. But a simple concern is: What happens when we leave? How do we ensure that local progress on politics, local progress on reconstruction, local progress on recruiting police officers is sustained?

And I would like you to describe in your mind what you think the specific institutions, resources, or additional steps are that will be required if that progress, at the local level, is going to be sustained once these withdrawals are completed?

CROCKER: There are several elements to that excellent question.

First, as I said before, I think that ensuring that local developments relate to the center in ways that both the localities, the provinces and the center agree are the most beneficial to larger interests -- I think that is essential. And that is why we've placed such emphasis in Anbar, for example, on ensuring that police are recruited from the locality, but paid for by the central government.

Iraq may, as time guess on and conditions stabilize, evolve into an entity that is different than it is now. But right now the center is important to the provinces because it controls the finance, for example. And it affects development to a large extent because projects in provinces, in many cases, are carried out by offices of Baghdad ministries.

So that's one part of it: ensuring that there is an appropriate connection between provincial initiatives and the central government.

In terms of what we can do, as you know, in terms of U.S. assistance efforts, we have moved from major infrastructure projects into a focus on capacity building.

And we've got additional people coming out, for example, to assist that effort at the federal level. Advisers to ministries to help them deliver services more efficiently, including services to the provinces.

We have also, through the expansion of our provincial reconstruction teams, carried that effort in very close coordination with the military, and, as you know, most of the -- all of the additional reconstruction teams are embedded with military units.

We've carried that down to the provinces. We've increased staffing and, thanks to Congress, we now have what are called quick response funds available to supplement the military surge funds. And brigade combat team leaders and provincial reconstruction team leaders coordinate to ensure that they're complementing each other, not competing on efforts to develop provincial capacities. Because I think that is going to be critically important.

Provincial governance is new in Iraq. It did not exist at all in any meaningful way under Saddam, and it really didn't exist even prior to that. So their learning curve has got to be a very steep one. So, our effort to help that, I think, is also key.

With regard to that reconstruction, in your testimony, you mentioned $10 billion in oil resources. You've also mentioned the very important critical assistance, U.S. taxpayer funds for the reconstruction -- for the provincial reconstruction teams and for reconstruction efforts.

Capacity building's a problem. What other obstacles are there, however, to spending that $10 billion effectively? What confidence level do you have in the accountability? What confidence level do you have in the current quality of the investments that are being made? Are you confident that this money is going to be used effectively, not just for the long term, but in the next six to nine months?

CROCKER: We're talking about Iraq's own investments here, the $10 billion and their capital development budget?

SUNUNU: Yes.

CROCKER: There are a number of mechanisms and measures that the Iraqis have in place to monitor waste, fraud and mismanagement: inspectors general, the Commission for Public Integrity, the Board of Central Audit.

SUNUNU: Do those really work? Are they working now?

CROCKER: To a degree. I mean, it's like a lot of other things in Iraq, quite frankly, Senator, works in progress.

Perhaps the most effective check on this is, I think, the healthy watchfulness between center and provinces. The provinces want to be darn sure that they're getting everything that is supposed to be coming to them. And the center, out of whose treasury it comes, has a pronounced interest in seeing that the money is used and not pocketed.

And ultimately, of course, in even the very imperfect, open society that Iraq is at this point, people are watching, too. Provincial councils are watching how this is spent.

SUNUNU: Thank you.

General Petraeus, you've described withdrawals or reduction in troop levels to begin this month, reduction of 30,000 to be completed by July. You've also spoken about a mid-March assessment at which point you'll decide whether to recommend withdrawals beyond that 30,000 troop reduction that's in your testimony.

What factors -- what specific factors are you going to look at in assessing whether or not there are further troop reductions recommended in that mid-March assessment? And how might those factors be different than the factors you looked at in making these recommendations for force reductions?

PETRAEUS: I think, Senator, that the operational and strategic considerations that I laid out in my testimony actually will all still obtain as we work out the pace of the further reductions beyond the situation that we've recommended for mid-July right now.

Highlighted among those, needless to say, would be the local security and political situations.

And, again, the political piece of that is quite important, because as we saw in Anbar province, that really was what changed so dramatically there was, again, sort of a political change, really, of tribes and their leaders choosing to oppose Al Qaida as opposed to being in league with or at least tacitly accepting their presence.

So, again, that's what we will be looking at very, very closely, similar considerations.

Again, it will be informed by the strain on our ground forces. That was a factor in this particular set of recommendations, and we'll continue to do that again next time as well.

SUNUNU: Thank you, Gentlemen.

Thank you, Chairman.

BIDEN: Thank you.

Senator Nelson?

SEN. BILL NELSON, D-FLA.: Gentlemen, thank you for your public service.

Mr. Ambassador, can Iraq be stabilized without political reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites?

CROCKER: No, sir.

What is the chance of that political reconciliation in the course of the remainder of this administration for 16 months?

Senator, I could not put a timeline on it or a target date.

I can point to some of it as we discussed earlier. Some of the processes that are underway, some of the hopeful signs. Clearly there is a great deal more to do both, at the national level and down on the streets in mixed areas.

We talked a bit about the situation in Baghdad how long that is going to take. And, frankly, even ultimately whether it will succeed, I can't predict. I think there is enough in the way of positive signs here to justify the course we're on but, again, I can't give you any time lines, dates or guarantees.

NELSON: Is the success in Anbar province a success because the question of political reconciliation is not there since it is all Sunni?

CROCKER: Yes and no. Where the reconciliation aspect comes in is through the efforts by the central government to connect to the province and the people in the province, the hiring of the policemen, for example, the furnishing of additional financial resources, as well as steps in Abu Ghraib, close to Baghdad -- some Baghdad neighborhoods.

So I would say what happened in Anbar proper, that would be a precursor to reconciliation. The connection we are seeing between the central government and the province are the beginnings of reconciliation but, clearly, there is a lot more to do.

Diyala, the province of Diyala, to the northeast of Baghdad, may be a more accurate measure as to how this proceeds, because of the fact that Diyala is a very mixed province of Sunni, Shia and Kurd.

And it has also suffered from extremist excesses, both Al Qaida and extremist Shia militias. So that process of reconciliation would be directly linked, I think, to the overall Sunni-Shia and, indeed, Sunni-Shia-Kurd process.

NELSON: As a diplomat, given the fact that the general has testified here that, likely, at the end of next summer, that we would be in the range of about 130,000 American troops.

That being the case, with only about four months left -- then left in the Bush administration, handing that situation off, with 130,000 troops, to the next president, what will be your analysis of the diplomatic condition and the chances of success under those conditions?

Well, quite frankly, Senator, that's just not where my focus is. It's looking at the conditions inside Iraq. General Petraeus referred to a battlefield geometry.

CROCKER: There's also, if you will, a political-military trigonometry that comes into play as well in making the determinations as to, again, the ability and orientation of Iraqi forces, conditions in areas that, obviously, are going to effect redeployment decisions. But that's where the focus is, not on the U.S. political calendar for me.

NELSON: All right. Well, let me ask you about something that you're engaged in right now. You have been having discussions with the Iranian ambassador.

Do you see any signs of change? Do you have any optimism with regard to your conclusions from your discussions with Iran that would give us any indication that Iran does not want to take full advantage of the conditions in Iraq to the detriment of the interests of the United States?

CROCKER: The discussions we've had so far have not resulted in any visible improvements of the security situation in Iraq as it is attributable to Iran -- whether it is training, funding or providing munitions to radical Shia militias, as I've noted.

Iran is a complicated place, and they make complicated calculations, and I don't pretend to be able to read their minds. I don't -- therefore, I'm not prepared to say that this channel is not worth pursuing. It has not produced results as of yet.

Maybe that will change in the future.

NELSON: Let me ask you this final question then.

And, Mr. Chairman, my time's about up, isn't it?

BIDEN: You have another minute.

NELSON: Sixty seconds worth.

Do you -- are you concerned as you talk to Iran and as you observe that process, that -- that Iran is going to be behind a Hezbollah-type destabilization in Iraq in order to exact a price upon the United States interests?

CROCKER: Sir, they already are, in my judgment, involved in that sort of process.

NELSON: And are they utilizing that Sunni-Shia split?

CROCKER: They are seeking to expand their influence in Iraq using extremist militias, and those militias have been a major factor in the sectarian violence, yes.

BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator.

Gentlemen, you've been testifying for a very long time. Why don't we, in a moment, take a five-minute break?

I'd like to recognize, though, a former staff member here, Rich Haughton (ph). And I mention him as illustrative of the civilians that are over there. For 29 months, he's been in Iraq. He was on this committee for years as Senator Thomas' staffer.

And I want to point out that it's been eight months since he's been home. And as both our colleagues know, he ushered us around. And he puts his life on the line, too. He's out there in those vehicles. He's flying all around.

And he's not the only one, but I don't know many that have been there much more than 29 months.

Why don't you stand up? I want the committee to remember who you were. There you go.

(APPLAUSE)

And, by the way, he -- by the way, General, the special forces guys that take us around, they all think he can handle himself. I don't know what the story is.

But, at any rate, let's take a five-minute break.

(RECESS)

BIDEN: Hearing will come to order.

Senator Murkowski?

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI, R-ALASKA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Ambassador, General, I, too, want to echo my appreciation, my admiration for your work, for your service, and to echo the support of all Americans for those men and women that are serving us in such an incredible way in so many different places.

We had asked you to come and report to Congress this week. I think your testimony has been one of the most anticipated testimonies certainly that I can recall here in the Congress. Many of us have withheld either comments or projecting on what may happen until we heard directly from you. So we appreciate this report today.

We also acknowledge that preceding your testimony we have received numerous reports all giving various assessments, so this much anticipated testimony is in many ways a little bit preempted by some of what we anticipated that we would be seeing. So rather than focus on whether or not we agree or disagree with the number of benchmarks that have been met or whether you support the Jones report, I would like to focus a little bit this morning on how we move forward, and, to use your words, General Patraeus, your recommendations for the way ahead, because I think that's what people want to know.

What happens next now that we know this information and all of this data that has been collected?

And you have been very helpful, General, in outlining the various drawdowns that will take us through to March.

Those recommendations will be presented to the president. But, as I listen to your testimony and the comments, I'm struck by the statement that what we're doing with our recommended force reductions mission shift -- and I appreciate the slide that you've got here -- we're saying that -- and these are your words, General, We are showing the recommended reductions 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.

This sounds very much -- sounds identical to what President Bush has been saying all along that U.S. forces will draw down as the Iraqis are able to stand up.

So the question is: Is this a change in strategy? Is this a mission shift? Are we continuing the same path that we have laid out before, entirely reliant on the ability of the Iraqis to come together, to achieve that political reconciliation? And unless they are able to do that, we are not able to execute your recommended force reduction.

General?

PETRAEUS: Well, Senator, thank you. We have, indeed, already been shifting responsibilities to Iraqis in a number of different places around Iraq -- some of them surprising places.

The most surprising, probably Fallujah, a city in which the -- first of all, after us clearing it in November of '04, we had to bring in Iraqi army and substantial coalition forces to hold it because there were no local young men that would volunteer to serve in the police or even in the army for that matter in Anbar province at that time.

We've just completed a process of establishing 10 police precincts in Fallujah, with actually gated communities, the same as we do in some of the very difficult ethno-sectarian area, but so that the local individuals in those neighborhoods, those 10 precincts, can actually control access to the areas, have population control, if you will, to keep Al Qaida out of Fallujah, something that they worked hard to do.

And this has allowed us not only to thin out our own forces. We do still have a marine squad or so in each of those precincts, but a substantial amount less than we have in the past. But we're even thinning out the Iraqi army forces which, as I mentioned earlier, have gone from three battalions there most recently now down to just one so that the other two can move up and, in fact, replace our forces that are coming out of an area and the ones that are going home later this month.

Mosul is another example. That city has been under enormous pressure by Al Qaida. Al Qaida has tried to open a second front there as they did do successfully in November '04, when they brought the police to their knees in Mosul as we went into Fallujah.

This time the Iraqi army and the police have, really, hung, very tough. And we're down to a single combat U.S. battalion there. There is a brigade headquarters also that has all of Nineveh province. Again, smaller force than in the past. That shows what it is that we are trying to do and will do over the course of the months ahead.

It is clearly conditions-based, but we're trying to push the conditions as fast as we absolutely can without, again, rushing to failure. And what we do not want to do is put ourselves back in the position that we found ourselves, say in the latter part of 2006, which did enormous damage, frankly, to the entire effort that we had launched.

I believe that my optimism, back when I showed those very fine Iraqi forces to Senator Boxer was justified. I felt that -- and, by the way, if you read the op-ed piece, I don't think that it is all that dramatically optimistic. It was stating what we were doing.

MURKOWSKI: Can I...

PETRAEUS: A lot of this was undone by that sectarian violence in 2006, which did cause not just horrific casualties, but it also caused the hijacking of certain elements of the Iraqi security forces by sectarian interests.

MURKOWSKI: I don't want to interrupt that, but I want to ask one very important question that really hasn't been brought up here today, and that's the civilian side.

When I was in Iraq and had a sitdown with General Odierno, he said as important as the military surge is going to be the civilian surge, and that piece, in his opinion, had not yet played out, had not yet been effective.

And, Ambassador, you've stated that there is appropriate civilian posture. And I think that that means that you're satisfied with the level of the civilian commitment that you have with your PRTs.

Yet, we look at the economy, we recognize, to use your words, the economy is performing under potential.

Is the civilian surge adequate to support the military surge?

And, Ambassador, I'm going to kind of let you off the hook, because you have said that it is appropriate.

General, do you have the support that you need on the civilian side?

PETRAEUS: We would like to see more. I agree with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who has said repeatedly that certain elements of our government are at war, DOD, State, AID, but not all of the others.

So we can use help in those areas. Some of these areas are quite thin, agriculture, health and some others.

The PRTs are enormously helpful. We need to make sure that they are filled as they are supposed to be. The projection is they will be, but that's something we need to watch carefully.

And even, frankly, in our own DOD, the FMS system really has to respond more rapidly, given all of the commitment that the Iraqis have made, in becoming one of our bigger foreign military sales customers.

And we've got to try to push that process as rapidly as we can, so that we can, in fact, equip them in the way that we have promised to do.

BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator. Senator Obama?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, gentlemen, for your testimony. Obviously, with seven minutes, it's a little frustrating, because we're dealing with an extraordinarily complex situation.

So I just want to stipulate a couple things. Number one, the performance of our troops has been outstanding. And we thank them for their service. They've done everything that's been asked of them throughout this process.

Number two, I think that both of you gentlemen are doing the absolute best that you can, given an extraordinarily difficult situation. And so I appreciate the work that both of you are doing. I would say that the mission that's been given to you is what's at issue here in the Senate.

The question is one of strategy, not tactics. And the difficulty we have, I think, is that, each time we've talked to you, questions have been posed to you about the broader strategy of our war in Iraq, you've punted a little bit because you've said, look, that's a little outside my bailiwick.

But as Senator Feingold pointed out, we don't have limitless resources. And we've got to make these decisions, at least, in the Senate, based on priorities and the costs, as well as benefits, to pursuing a particular strategy.

I have to say, and this hasn't been commented on, I think that we should not have had this discussion on 9/11 or 9/10 or 9/12. Because I think it perpetuates this notion that, somehow, the original decision to go into Iraq was directly related to the attacks on 9/11.

And this is not to relitigate the original decision to go into Iraq.

It is to suggest that if the American people and the Congress had understood then that after devoting $1 trillion, which is what this thing optimistically will end up having cost, thousands of American lives, the creation of an environment in which Al Qaida in Iraq could operate because it didn't exist prior to our invasion, that we have increased terrorist recruitment around the world, that Iran has been strengthened, that bin Laden and Al Qaida are stronger than at any time since 2001, and that the process of Iraqi reconstruction and their standard of living would continue to be lower than it was pre- invasion, that if that had been the deal, I think most people would have said that's a bad deal, that does not make sense, that does not serve the United States' strategic interests.

And so I think that some of the frustration you hear from some of the questioners is that we have now set the bar so low that modest improvement in what was a completely chaotic situation, to the point where now we just have the levels of intolerable violence that existed in June of 2006 is considered success, and it's not.

This continues to be a disastrous foreign policy mistake. And we are now confronted with the question: How do we clean up the mess and make the best out of a situation in which there are no good options, there are bad options and worse options?

And this is not a criticism of either of you gentlemen, this is a criticism of this president and the administration which has set a mission for the military and for our diplomatic forces that is extraordinarily difficult now to achieve.

And there has been no acknowledgement of that on the part of this administration, so that we have the president in Australia suggesting somehow that we are, as was stated before, kicking A-S-S.

How can we have a president making that assessment? And it makes it very difficult then for those of us who would like to join with you in a bipartisan way to figure out how to best move forward to extricate this from the day-to-day politics that infects Washington. So I just wanted to get that on the record.

Final stipulation, I think the surge has had some impact, as I suggested. I would hope it would, given the sacrifices and loss that have been made. I would argue that the impact has been relatively modest given the investment.

And I have to say that, based on my testimony, it is not clear to me that the primary success that you've shown in Anbar has anything to do with the surge. You said, in this testimony, that it's political the reason for the success in Anbar, not because of an increase in troop strength.

We have, maybe, seen some modest decline in sectarian violence inside Baghdad as a consequence of our troop withdrawals. That has been purchased at the cost of increased U.S. casualties and is unsustainable. What we haven't seen is a significant disarming of the Shia militias. Again, during your testimony you've told us that essentially the Shias decided, even before we got there, to get on one knee and to wait it out.

We haven't seen, most importantly, any significant improvement, in terms of the central government's performance. It continues to be ineffectual and we have not seen national reconciliation of the sort that was promised prior to the surge.

So I just think it is important for us to get all that clear and on the record because that provides the context in which we are going to have to be making a series of decisions.

That, of course, now leaves me very little time to ask questions and that's unfortunate.

BIDEN: That's true, Senator.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Let me pick up on a question that, I think, was relevant and posed by Senator Murkowski. And that is, the general theory has been that we will draw down when Iraqi security forces stand up and or the Iraqi government stands up.

General Petraeus, in the counterinsurgency manual that you wrote, it says that even the strongest U.S. commitment will not succeed if the populous does not perceive the host nation government as having similar will and stamina to our own.

The question, I think, that everybody is asking is, how long will this take? And at what point do we say enough? General -- Ambassador Crocker, you said the patience -- the Iraqi people understand that the patience of the American people is not limitless. But that appears to be exactly what you're asking for in this testimony.

I don't see, at any point, where you say, if this fails, or if that does not work, or if we are not seeing these benchmarks met or any conditions in which we would make a decision now to start drawing down our troops. And you suggest, somehow, that our drawing down troops will not trigger a different set of behaviors on the part of the Iraqis, but I don't see what will.

And if we're there the same place a year from now, can you please describe for me any circumstances in which you would make a different recommendation and suggest it is now time for us to start withdrawing our troops? Any scenario? Any set of benchmarks that had not been met?

CROCKER: Senator, I described for Senator Sununu a little bit ago some of the things that I think are going to be very important as we move ahead.

OBAMA: Can you repeat those? And I know I'm out of time, so I'm just going to ask for both the general and the ambassador to answer.

BIDEN: We are -- let me just make it clear. We're not going to have much -- these guys have to testify at 2:00. It's in the record. But why won't you try to summarize, quickly, what you said? OK?

CROCKER: I mentioned several points. As General Petraeus has said, what is happening in Iraq is an ethno-sectarian competition for power and resources. It's -- that's simply the way it is.

So the question is: Is it played out violently or by other ways?

So I think one key indicator is going to be levels of violence going forward. They've come down substantially, they need to go down farther and they need to stay down. So that is obviously something that we're going to be -- we're going to be looking for.

As they go down and stay down, it's going to be very important to see the kinds of political responses that we saw, for example, in Anbar and we're starting to see in Diyala and a few other places, the degree to which the issues do move to the political arena.

And then, related to that, a third point is the linkages then that need to develop between the center and the provinces, the outlying areas, as security conditions stabilize, assuming they do.

And the final point, coming back to your comment on militias, I think it's going to be very important to see what happens in the months ahead with respect to the government's ability to take on militia elements in Baghdad and elsewhere.

BIDEN: Thank you, Senator.

Senator DeMint?

SEN. JIM DEMINT, R-S.C.: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, General, Mr. Ambassador for your service.

Whenever I'm frustrated and worried about our country because of the political process, I'll tell you, General, I'm never more proud or optimistic about the future of our country than when I'm standing with our troops somewhere in the world. And I thank you and all of them.

I particularly appreciate both of you for enduring our hearings. As you have found, our hearings are more about listening to ourselves than listening to our witnesses. And I promise to continue that tradition myself.

I think many of us, or most of us, would admit at this point that when we went into Iraq, we got into a lot more than we bargained for. We were unprepared politically and militarily for the task. The loss of life and injury to our troops with makeshift bombs should shame our military and political leaders for our lack of forethought and planning.

Perhaps an even bigger issue is that our approach in Iraq has demonstrated that our own government no longer completely understands how and why freedom works. We've established a premature democracy in Iraq and it's become increasingly apparent that the private sector institutions that are necessary to sustain a democracy and a free society do not yet exist in Iraq.

Nevertheless, we're there now and are asking our troops to provide security and maintain order while we work desperately to create a functioning government, military, police force, economic system, and a free society.

Our only other choice is to abandon our mission, disgrace our country, dishonor our fallen troops, and leave Iraq and the whole region in a deadly turmoil.

Our mission is overwhelmingly complex. The fact that you're both here today reporting some success and that you now believe our goals are attainable is, in my view, a cause for celebration and will certainly encourage the American people who in large part have been convinced that the war is lost.

We know that your report will be resisted and maligned by many who have staked their political future on the belief that America's goals in Iraq were wrong and that our mission has failed.

In my view, the only relevant question now is, where do we go from here?

General, your recommendation to draw down troops to the pre-surge levels is encouraging. Your plan to further reduce troop levels as soon as possible is very welcome.

Ambassador Crocker, your report that some leadership is emerging from within the Iraqi government is heartening.

And I frankly believe that, if Iraq was located anywhere else in the world, that a functioning democracy would likely emerge in the relatively short term.

But it's not located anywhere in the world. It's in the Middle East, with the world's biggest sponsors of terror on its borders and nearby in the region.

So my question to you both is this. Is there any reasonable expectation for long-term viability of a peaceful, democratic Iraq, as long as the current regime rules in Iran and the conditions in Syria and Saudi Arabia remain the same?

And Mr. Ambassador, I would just ask you to maybe make a political observation, and, General, of just some military and security implications of the border states in the region, for Iraq.

CROCKER: It's a great question, Senator. Iraq's problems are difficult enough in their own terms, but they don't play out in their own terms. Iraq's in a rough neighborhood. And that complicates the issue considerably.

I think it can. Iran has been a malign actor in Iraq, but, even with the worst of intentions, there are limits on what Iran can do. Iran is not an Arab state. Iraqi Shia Arabs are not Persians. There is the legacy of an eight-year, bitter war between the two countries, in which tens of thousands of Iraqi Arab Shia died for Iraq, against the guns of Iran.

So Iran's influence has its limits and popular tolerance for Iran has its limits, particularly when Iran overreaches, and that's what I think is the significance of the incidents in Karbala about 10 days ago.

It was an Iranian-backed militia element. The fact that it attacked shrine guards on one of the most holy days on the Shia Islamic calendar created a lot of Shia anger and a lot of that anger is directed against the militias, directed against Iran. So there are limits to Iran's hostility or ability to turn it's hostility into deeply destabilizing action.

The Arab neighbors may be turning a new page. I mentioned in my testimony that Saudi Arabia has now decided to re-open it's embassy in Baghdad. I met with their delegation when they came through and the said, Look, it's time to get on with relations with a key Arab country, and that's Iraq.

Jordan's made some positive statements. There are still reservations, there's no question. There's still more they can do, but I think this may be moving in a more positive direction.

Syria is, as I said, problematic. They've hosted a number of -- almost a million Iraqi refugees. But they've also allowed a certain number of foreign fighters, suicide bombers, to cross their border. They need to do more.

Thank you.

PETRAEUS: Senator, I would just pick up on that and say that, first of all, the ambassador and I have, on several occasions said that you cannot win in Iraq just in Iraq. So you are absolutely right about the importance of neighboring countries and the influence that they have on the activities in Iraq.

Iraq very much needs Syria to tighten its airport Damascus, Aleppo, and also its borders, much more to the movement of individuals that come through there -- foreign fighters, some of whom become suicide bombers and then move through the borders into Iraq. We believe there are some training camps over there. This is something the intelligence is still certainly developing to try to determine how accurate that is, but there are concerns about that as well.

But tightening that, because, again, although Al Qaida may not be the source of the most violence in certain areas of Iraq, it is the organization that, again, has ignited the ethno-sectarian violence and it is the Sunni Arab organization that, generally, was carrying out the ethno-sectarian violence in Baghdad, as well.

With respect to Iran, we have learned a great deal more about Iranian activities in Iraq since the capture, some months back, of the head of the so-called special groups that are associated with Sadr's militia.

These are individuals who have been trained, equipped, armed and funded by Iran. And along with that individual, we captured the deputy commander of Lebanese Hezbollah Department 2800, which we had not been aware of, but it turns out to be an organization that has been created to support Iran's activities with respect to the special groups and some of the other militia extremists in Iraq.

Again, that makes the situation vastly more difficult for Iraq, obviously, than it otherwise would be. A lot of the munitions that are shot at innocent civilians, shot at our forces, Iraqi forces, certainly those used by these militias, a very large number of those, in fact, come from Iran in the form of the rockets, the explosively formed projectiles and some of the other arms and munitions that are provided to them.

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

Senator Menendez?

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, D-N.J: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you both for your service. I admire the extraordinary sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, which is why I believe that we must give them a policy worthy of their sacrifices, and I just don't believe the policy that we've had I've heard here today meets that standard.

General Petraeus, you say, in your testimony, The fundamental source of the conflict in Iraq is competition among ethnic and sectarian communities for power and resources. This competition will, your emphasis, Will take place and its resolution is key to producing long-term stability in the new Iraq.

So, we have the sons and daughters of America dying for Iraqis to compete over power and resources instead of trying to establish a nation.

PETRAEUS: Actually, Senator, our mission is to try to help what is an inevitable competition.

I have tried to describe this as accurately as I could, of a sectarian competition.

MENENDEZ: And I appreciate it. You say that the fundamental is to...

(CROSSTALK)

PETRAEUS: ... to get that to be carried out more peacefully, rather than more violently. And that is what we are trying to help the legitimate Iraqi forces...

MENENDEZ: But, at the core of it, is what we're doing is trying to referee, with the lives of Americans, a competition for power and resources, not for building a nation.

And in my mind, that is a misguided policy from the outset. I appreciate that you put that up front, on page two of your testimony. But it seems to me that if we were dying for Iraqis to build a nation versus edging each other for power and resources, that would be different. But that is clearly not the case.

If the street fight, as Ambassador Crocker said, may go on if we were to leave, it seems to be the street -- you've defined that there is a street fight going on right now over power and resources.

Let me just ask you this: I heard the testimony yesterday, saw the headlines today, but as I understand it, all you're doing in terms of reducing the numbers, which has been much heralded, is acknowledging the very same timeline that had largely been established. You're accelerating it somewhat, but you're ending around the same timeline to bring the surge troops back home.

Isn't that a fair statement?

PETRAEUS: Senator, it is correct that what I am doing is recommending the beginning of the reduction of the surge forces in mid-December rather than as late as April, if you just ran it all the way until the 15 months mark.

MENENDEZ: But you'll basically be there around the same time frame.

PETRAEUS: Well, what I'm also not doing, Senator, is recommending continuing the surge or recommending continuing some portion of the surge forces, if you will.

So this is a reduction of forces that are on the ground right now. It will represent one quarter of our ground combat brigades. And to a commander, that's a substantial reduction of forces.

MENENDEZ: But, basically, I think everybody understood that beyond that type of deployment, it would be very difficult to continue it under any set of circumstances.

So what we're going to end up in July of next year is largely where the administration was in February of this year, before the surge.

PETRAEUS: It will be the same number of combat brigades that we had in Iraq...

MENENDEZ: And so, therefore, the policy...

PETRAEUS: ... in January of this year.

MENENDEZ: And so, therefore, the policy that we had in February is going to be the policy we're going to have next July in terms of troops on the ground and what was being achieved.

PETRAEUS: The mission will be slightly modified in terms of the emphasis on supporting the Iraqi forces and, as quickly as possible, but without rushing to failure, transitioning tasks to them.

I appreciate not rushing to failure. But I'm looking at the your chart, the Iraqi security forces capabilities. Now, as I read that chart, I put my ruler across your time line and it seems to me that in the category of fully independent, they are just about or less so than they were in November of '06, that in the category of Iraqi lead with coalition support, they are just about the same level as November of '06. And only when we get to the category of fighting side by side do we see an increase.

So 11 months later, where we have to depend upon the Iraqis to do a lot of what you're suggesting needs to take place, we are at about the same levels as of November of '06.

PETRAEUS: And the key reason for that, Senator, is because Iraqis have been fighting and dying and in fact have lost leaders, soldiers and equipment, which, in fact, has made it difficult for them to maintain their readiness assessments.

I think it's important not to get too fixated on these ORA numbers, the operational readiness assessment numbers, because the fact is that in a number of provinces in Iraq, you have Iraqi organizations who are not assessed as level one, because they, just like our own readiness system, they are lacking in some equipment or some leaders or some people...

MENENDEZ: But, General...

PETRAEUS: ... but they are still performing, in fact, in some cases, completely independently of our forces.

MENENDEZ: You put the chart to substantiate that we are making progress, and clearly...

PETRAEUS: Oh, I put the chart to inform, Senator...

(CROSSTALK)

PETRAEUS: ... just to lay out the facts.

MENENDEZ: All right, all right, fine, so we are now informed that we are not much better in the two categories that are critical.

(CROSSTALK)

PETRAEUS: ... discussion about it, and I wanted to have it out there.

It's the same as I put the chart in about the violence trends that have been all over the map...

MENENDEZ: General, of what you know today, if the commander in chief said to you, General Petraeus, how many more years do American soldiers have to continue in Iraq, what would your answer to him be?

PETRAEUS: I would give a forthright answer, Senator, which is that I cannot predict that. And I cannot do that to you here, either, today.

And if he pressed you, clearly, you would be able to give him some timeline, like two years, five years?

PETRAEUS: Sir, I would be doing a disservice to our soldiers if I tried to lay out a specific timeline, at this point, that took us all the way out.

What I have done here is laid out for you what our conceptual plan is. And, obviously, we all want -- you know, I'm as frustrated with the situation as anybody else. This is going on three years for me, on top of a year deployment to Bosnia as well. So my family also knows something about sacrifice.

MENENDEZ: And I appreciate that sacrifice.

PETRAEUS: And what we're trying to do is to get it down as quickly as we can...

MENENDEZ: But there are millions of American families who are looking at what is happening for their sons and daughters who are in Iraq today, and some who will be in Iraq tomorrow, including from my home state of New Jersey.

And they question how long is going to continue, under what circumstances, with what benchmarks, which we have largely been heard to be erased here, even though we believe in the rule of law.

Well, it is the law. The benchmarks were established, created with the Iraqi government, signed on by the president, passed by the Congress, signed into law. And now we basically say, well, let's forget those benchmarks.

That is not something that the American people can continue to be called upon for.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

BIDEN: Thank you.

Senator Isakson?

SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON, R-GA.: General Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker, thank you very much for your service. We all admire you.

I think it's instructive to me that the New York Times poll yesterday, General Petraeus, trusted -- 60 percent of the people trusted you to make decisions and 20 percent of the people trusted us. So I think we ought to all pay attention to what you've got to say.

And that's really a tribute, also, to the job that you have done and the job that Ambassador Crocker has done in Iraq.

My memory, at the start of this, was that the United States went into Iraq because of Resolution 1441, passed by the United Nations, where, unanimously, the world thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

And we had some faulty intelligence, but we were not alone.

The world thought that.

The president in his speech outlined three specific goals before we went in. One, to depose Hussein and find weapons of mass destruction. Second was to allow the Iraqis have free elections and write a constitution. And third was to train their military sufficient to protect that fledgling country.

The way I see it, goals one and two have been done. Hussein was deposed and the Iraqis tried him in their courts, not us. Weapons of mass destruction weren't found exploding, but their components were there, from buried Scud missiles to massive graves of people that had been killed.

Because of our troops, they held free elections, they wrote a constitution.

And we are now at the third goal. And yesterday, General Petraeus -- or, last week, General Jones and his group made an assessment on the training of the Iraqi military that we were about 18 months away from them having their numbers levels and their training being obtained. Is that in your estimate a fair estimate?

PETRAEUS: I think it is, Senator. Again, what you're talking about is the general structures, because there are already cases, as I mentioned, of units that are -- excuse me, performing local security. But then there are other units about which we have concern over sectarian influence.

So, again, there's a big mix in there. But as a generalization, I believe that is correct.

ISAKSON: Well, your point of the turnover in Basra to some -- to the Iraqi army as the Brits were leaving, your -- as I remember it, the mosque bomber that was captured and killed three weeks ago, that was an Iraqi operation with only close air support by United States troops, if I'm not mistaken. Is that right?

PETRAEUS: That's correct. And in fact, in another case, it is Iraqi army forces that both identified and then killed the Al Qaida leader emir of Mosul, the senior Al Qaida leader in Mosul, as well.

So there have been some shining examples of Iraqi forces conducting operations, in some cases, on their own, and in some cases with some support from us. And certainly the latter is the model that we're trying to get to. And it works quite well in certain provinces but, in some other very challenging provinces, we are, obviously, a long way from that.

ISAKSON: Well, as I read your recommendations, which are reflected by this chart, you are recommending a gradual change from American troops leading the security of Iraq, to American military personnel overseeing or overwatching operations in Iraq. And then it has four or five stages, which will be determined by multiple factors. But one significant one will be the number of Iraqi troops that are trained and capable of taking over what's represented as the red, here, which is the leadership. Is that right?

PETRAEUS: That's correct, Senator.

ISAKSON: So this is really a recommendation for a way forward to reduce American involvement in combat, increase the involvement of the Iraqi troops, and have an oversight, an overwatch, if you will, of those operations by American troops. Is that correct?

PETRAEUS: That is correct, sir.

ISAKSON: And you can't put a time table on it because none of us ever can but, certainly, we are in reach or in sight of some of those significant goals that were established five years ago that would then trigger the ability to make some of those reductions?

PETRAEUS: That's correct. You know, one thing I have not talked about is the prime minister of Iraq establishing 120 percent as the authorized level of personnel. And this will compensate for the challenges they have of the leave program where soldiers, literally, have to take money home or their family doesn't get the money.

And, of course, those soldiers are in this for a very, very long time. They are not redeploying at all.

They are in the fight and they will stay in the fight. So raising that authorization level has already helped bring units up to strength.

The challenge for Iraq in the months and really years ahead, in fact, the challenge in them getting the operational readiness assessment numbers up higher is going to be leaders. They've lost a number of leaders in combat. They've formed units at a pretty rapid rate, actually, and, you know, it's easy -- it's one thing to train an infantryman. It's not easy, but it's one thing to train an infantryman. It's something very different to have a company commander, a battalion commander or a brigade commander of their staffs. Those takes years of experience and professional military education.

They have reached out actually to former members of the Iraqi army, of all ethno-sectarian backgrounds recently, which is a pretty important step for them. Tens of thousands. They've got about 5,000 or so that they have offered commissions to or noncommissioned officer positions to. And then others will move onto the retirement roles, which is significant as well, because they had not that status, and others still to civilian positions.

ISAKSON: Again, thank you very much for your service.

Ambassador Crocker, you have to dodge verbal bullets which sometimes are more penetrating than the real ones, I know. And I appreciate all that you've done.

You made a statement in July, the week after the interim report, which has stuck with me, and then when I read your testimony last night, it came back to me. You said failure to reach benchmarks politically in Iraq should not necessarily be indicative of a lack of progress. And what you stated about some of the local de- Baathification, some of the local reconciliation that's taking place, I presume was probably what you were referring to at that particular time.

I take it from what General Petraeus has said and from what you're saying is that ground up, if you will, movement towards de- Baathification and reconciliation is picking up steam. Is that correct?

CROCKER: I think it is, sir. But it's also -- it's ground up, but it's also top-down, because the decision to make offers to former military officers, many of them Baath Party members, that was a central government decision.

It's just that, rather than address the matter through complex legislation that has been very, very difficult to negotiate, they dealt with it as a specific, immediate issue -- finding ways to deal with these former officers. So you've got both bottom-up and top-down, but neither in the form of comprehensive national legislation.

BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator.

Senator Cardin?

SEN. BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, D-MD.: Let me first start, as most of my colleagues have, to express my appreciation, on behalf of all the people of Maryland and our nation, for your service and your leadership and the extraordinary service of our soldiers and the support teams and their families that have been operating in Iraq.

But I want to follow up on some of the frustration that has been expressed here, not only by the two of you, but by the members of the United States Senate. And I'm not going to go back to 2002 and 2003, and I could, when I opposed the U.S. military involvement in Iraq.

But the purpose of this hearing is to evaluate the president's surge policy that was implemented in January of this year. And I go back to last fall when we began our national debate on a new chapter for the U.S. and Iraq. We had just completed national elections. We had the Iraq Study Group report. And the president made a decision in January, which was a controversial decision, to surge U.S. troops in Iraq.

Now, during that debate, there were certain goals and expectations that we expected to be able to achieve through the surge policy. We expected to reduce violence, to set the climate for political reconciliation and accommodation, and reduce U.S. troop levels. That was the expressed goals of our surge policy.

It's now time for the Senate and the American people to evaluate what has been achieved by the surge policy.

When we look at violence, I appreciate the charts and information that's been made available today. And, as you know, by our own acknowledgement, violence is too high in Iraq today. We can debate some of the numbers, although there have been other reports that we have received that indicate that violence actually has accelerated in many parts of Iraq.

But the national intelligence assessment estimate points out that a significant part have been dislocated individuals, people who've moved out of harm's way.

General, as you pointed out, some of this numbers are violence of Iraqi soldiers themselves -- 1.1 million of displaced people within Iraq, 200,000 in Baghdad itself.

Well, that's going to reduce the targets as they move from and participate in being ethnically cleansed.

And of course, the poll today, the Iraqis themselves believe that they are no safer today than they were before the surge.

Senator Menendez pointed out that your chart on the Iraqi security forces indicate there's been little improvement on level one and level two, for whatever reason. And the independent report from General Jones indicates that the Iraqi national police force is in terrible shape and could even be disbanded.

So, in regards to violence, we all acknowledge that we have not achieved the objectives that we set out in January of this year. Now, the second was a climate for political reconciliation and accommodation.

Now, here, the results are pretty clear. We have, again by your own testimonies and acknowledgement, that the government is dysfunctional. We had the withdrawal of the Sunni Arab consensus fund from the government, so the cabinet is badly numbered as far as who is participating. They agreed to benchmarks, which my colleagues pointed out were not our benchmarks, but the administration benchmarks, have not been achieved in regards to political considerations.

So we have not made the progress necessary on the political front, which leads us to the third standard that you asked us to judge on, and that is the expectation for the reduction of U.S. troops.

General Petraeus, you indicate that hopefully within 10 months, we will be able to get our troop levels down to 130,000, which is where we started -- which is no troop reduction.

We're back to where we were before the surge, which doesn't seem to be the goal we set out last January.

So I'm suggesting we shouldn't try to change the rules or the evaluation procedures. We failed on our own standards that we set up last January. And that's why a lot of us are frustrated, because yes, we do want to look forward. Where do we go from here? And now, we all agree we need to increase diplomacy. We need a stronger diplomatic effort.

Ambassador Crocker, I guess the question I'd like to ask you is, in this climate, where it's perceived that it's not reality that America is the occupation force in Iraq and there's little motivation for other countries or entities to take proprietary interests in trying to help the Iraqis, diplomatically, when we're trying to get international organizations, including United Nations -- and I hope OSCE, which we're using now in Afghanistan -- what motivation is there with the United States taking on just about the complete burden, outside the Iraqis themselves, in trying to help the Iraqis?

What incentive is there to help in training the security forces and helping provide the security they need, in helping to train the different public agencies that are needed in Iraq to establish the type of government they need from the judiciary to their utilities?

What incentive is there for other countries to get involved or other organizations to get involved?

CROCKER: Senator, I think there is a growing realization in the region and in the international community that what happens in Iraq is important to the world. And I think that is why you have seen some of the things I described in my testimony of both regional and international initiatives that are developing some momentum.

I talked a little bit about the neighbors forum that brings all of Iraq's neighbors plus the P-5 and the G-8...

CARDIN: And that was a positive development. But my point is this, that as long as the U.S. continues its military presence in Iraq, which is not popular internationally, the incentives for diplomatic help and on-the-ground help is marginalized.

CROCKER: Senator, I'd give you a slightly different view on that. I mentioned the new mandate for the United Nations assistance mission in Iraq.

CARDIN: Which you mentioned earlier.

CROCKER: Right. They've got a much more ambitious and robust mandate now than they did in the past, and it is the intention of the secretary general that the U.N. be more active in Iraq.

CARDIN: But most of those countries disagreeing with our military policy.

CROCKER: Well, the United Nations will be looking to us and our military in particular to help facilitate their security, which we're already doing, and to help ensure the safety of their movements. So not only is there not an aversion to us as the military -- as the primary military force on the ground, there is the hope and expectation that we will use those security assets to assist an international mission.

BIDEN: Thank you, Senator.

Senator Vitter?

VITTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to begin as almost all of my colleagues have by thanking you both for your very dedicated, very impressive, very courageous public service and by saluting the courage of all of our men and women in uniform and, indeed, all of our citizens serving in Iraq, some out of uniform.

Saying that may sound predictable or trite but, given our current political environment, given that today is 9/11, I think that it's important that we all say that. I think it's important that we all mean that.

And in that vein, I really hope all of us join together on the Senate floor and pass an amendment that's on the Senate floor now expressing that, and specifically decrying the moveon.org personal attack against you, General Petraeus. hand I hope we all join in doing that.

It is sort of tough at this point of the hearing to have an original question, but I think I actually do, because I haven't heard it asked in the discussion all month.

And it's to you, General. You have said correctly several times that we don't want to rush to failure. I certainly agree with that.

What gives you complete confidence that even the redeployment you have mapped out over the next central months might not in retrospect be rushing to failure given that it is a somewhat earlier end to the surge than would otherwise be necessary?

PETRAEUS: Well, again, there have been developments, both on the ground in local areas and with Iraqi security forces with respect to the local developments. Again, I don't want to replay Anbar province yet again, but I mean...

VITTER: If I could, let me ask it maybe a different way. Our time in Iraq has been marked by at least two things pretty consistently. One is big ups and downs. And the other, at least until now, hopefully, is that we have had fewer troops on the ground in retrospect than we needed.

So let me ask it this way: Why not have more of a cushion against that repeating itself than ending the surge earlier than absolutely necessary would provide?

PETRAEUS: Again, the reasons for the timing and the locations have to do with the so-called battlefield geometry and the other considerations that I laid out, including, again, a keen sense of awareness of the strain that this has put on our ground forces in particular and their families and those of other high demand, low density assets, as they're called.

Our sense, General Odierno, myself, other commanders, is that we can do what we have recommended doing based on, again, the progress that's been achieved in these various areas where we expect to thin down, to redo, again, the tactical geometry in this case, and the developments of Iraqi security forces in those areas.

And, again, it may be that the unit is not at a ORA one or maybe even ORA two because of some kinds of shortages of equipment or leaders, in particular. Iraq just can't find more leaders.

They're not sitting on the shelf out there that you can just draw on and put into battalion commander or other positions.

So there are going to be units that may not be at the level we'd like them to be at. However, they may still end up being capable of doing what is needed to be done in that area, particularly, again, when you can get the level of violence down and the level of local support up.

It's just a lot easier to be a cop on the beat now in Ramadi or Fallujah than it has been at any time since liberation, because the locals support them.

Yes, that is a political development, but our forces then enabled and took advantage of, along with Iraqi forces, that opportunity. So the opportunity finally presented itself. And we made the most of it, I believe, together with our Iraqi counterparts.

And now the national government has tried to support that and reinforce it by making these individuals part of these national ministries, paying their salaries, providing equipment and so forth -- never enough, always want more. Logistical systems aren't adequate and so forth.

But that's all coming along, and you can see your way forward.

VITTER: General...

PETRAEUS: ... in that regard.

VITTER: ... Let me ask you this because I think it's related. On page 6 of your testimony, you say long-term U.S. ground force viability will benefit from force reductions, as the surge runs its course.

What exactly do you mean by that?

PETRAEUS: Well, again, that is taking into account, again, a very keen awareness of the strain that we have put on the Marines and the Army, in particular.

We've asked an extraordinary amount of them. Were we to have continued the surge beyond, really, what is programmed right now would have required extraordinary measures.

And we've got to help the Army and the Marine Corps, our military at large, sort of, reconstitute some of its forces to get longer dwell time.

Again, as I mentioned, I'm pretty personally aware of the strain that this does put on our families. I was also in an assignment in the Army before this, where we oversaw some 18 different schools and centers.

CROCKER: And I got to see lieutenant -- really, captains, more importantly, and mid-grade NCOs who have served one, two tours and have the prospect of going back. So, again, there's an awareness of that that I think is very important, and it's also important if you do see that you're going to be engaged in Iraq, albeit at a much less level, you do have to have the assets to do that over time, as well.

VITTER: Mr. Ambassador, are there lessons from the bottom-up, regional-based, province-based reconciliation progress that are applicable to the central government?

CROCKER: I think there are.

VITTER: What are they and how do we get the central government to learn them and act on them?

BIDEN: Perhaps if you could make it brief. You have two more folks and I know you have to leave, so it's up to you, but...

CROCKER: Yes, sit. I'll be brief. Now, the most important lesson is the one that the central government is already demonstrating it has picked up, and that is recognizing, supporting and reaching out to political -- positive political change when it occurs at the grassroots level.

That's what they've done in Anbar, that's what they are doing in Diyala, that's what they've done closer to Baghdad, just to the west, and that is what I -- that is probably the single most important lesson from this, is being sure that provincial development and central government are linked.

VITTER: Thank you.

BIDEN: Thank you.

Senator Casey?

CASEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, we appreciate your presence here and we appreciate your extraordinary service to the country.

And I want to say personally when Senator Durbin and I were in Baghdad, appreciate the time you spent with us there and the information you provided.

General, I'll start with you and direct your attention to the overall question of Iraqi security forces and the training of those forces. I just have a couple of questions along those lines.

First of all, General, it's true, isn't it, that you were the commander of the training mission in Iraq from, I guess, October of '04 to September of '05 or through September '05?

PETRAEUS: It was from June of '04 to early September of '05.

CASEY: Through early September '05?

PETRAEUS: Right.

CASEY: And you'd agree with me, wouldn't you, that in terms of that assignment that you had to learn a great deal about the training mission and the importance of that, is that correct?

PETRAEUS: Certainly. Absolutely.

And I'm looking just an excerpt here from the national intelligence estimate from just recently, where they say in part, and I'm quoting, We, meaning those 16 intelligence agencies, We judge that the Iraqi security forces have not improved enough to conduct major operations independent of the coalition on a sustained basis in multiple locations and that the ISF remain reliant on the coalition for important aspects of logistics and combat support.

Just in light of the national intelligence estimate, that particular part of it, do you have any reason to refute that or do you have any evidence to suggest that that particular assertion is false?

PETRAEUS: No, I think that's correct.

As I mentioned earlier, Senator, we've had a number of experiences where we have, indeed, seen that it is one thing to train infantry men or even battalions of infantrymen, even brigades, it is yet much, much more to help an institution be reestablished, to help, literally, to rebuild depot systems, logistical structures.

Candidly, in the early fall of '04, there was no doctrine. There were no manuals. There was not even a parts system at all.

In fact, there was no depot, either. There were also no parts.

But, again, the magnitude of re-establishing the institutional underpinnings of the Iraqi army and the other military services and of the Iraqi police services has been an enormous task and enormously challenging, particularly because, as I mentioned earlier, it really took steps backward during the ethno-sectarian violence, the height of that in 2006, where units of the national police, in particular, were really hijacked by sectarian interests.

And that is something that Iraq is still dealing with today, despite the minister of interior having replaced national police commander -- both division commanders, all the brigade commanders and 17 of 27 battalion commanders. And they still have work to be done.

CASEY: And I'd ask you, also, with regard to the report on the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, the so-called Jones report which, of course, was an independent report put together by distinguished individuals in military and law enforcement, one of their conclusions was that the Iraqi security forces, or -- the Iraqi security forces would continue to rely upon coalition forces for key enablers such as combat support service and supply chain management and training.

And because of that, they say, they will not be ready to independently fulfill their security role in the next 12 to 18 months.

Also in the GAO report, not only do they make the finding that the measure of increasing the number of Iraqi security force units capable of operating independently, that that benchmark was not met they also mentioned, in the GAO report, that we spent $19.2 billion to train and equip Iraqi security forces.

I think you know where I'm headed in terms of those particular reports. And finally, with regard to data, and I'm holding up your Iraqi security force capabilities chart. And, of course, when we're talking about the levels -- just so those who are listening understand what we are talking about -- you referred earlier to operational readiness assessment ratings levels one through four, level one being the highest level of readiness.

As you can see, and as the chart -- your chart clearly indicates, the green section meaning the level one readiness that that they can independently take on the enemy has increased virtually not at all since the -- in the last year and a half so to speak, April of '06 to the present.

I say all that and I point to all that because, when you see that data in those reports, two of which were put together by I think clearly and unambiguously independent sources and then you juxtapose that data about their security forces not being ready, not being prepared at level one readiness, which has to be our goal and then I compare that or juxtapose that to some of your statements -- you said yesterday, in your testimony that, We have challenges ahead. The coalition and the Iraqi security forces have made progress toward achieving sustainable security.

In October of '05, you talked about enormous progress with the Iraqi security forces.

September of '04, you asserted that we have seen or you said, I see, in your case, tangible progress for the Iraqi security forces.

And I just ask him, when you look at both of those, your testimony and your references to progress at different points in time and the reality of what's not happening with regard to Iraqi security forces, I think you got to understand, and I would ask you to comment on this...

PETRAEUS: Sure.

CASEY: ... not just the general frustration that we feel but frankly, some of the skepticism we feel about your assertions in the past, your assertions here as it compares to what the reality is on that particular question of the Iraqi security forces.

PETRAEUS: Well, actually, I appreciate the opportunity to address that, Senator.

I really don't think that saying that one sees tangible progress is an extraordinary statement. I did see tangible progress. Iraq had gone from zero battalions, in May or so, to, I think at that time -- point in time, a modest number of eight or nine. That's tangible progress. We were re-establishing a whole variety of different structures. They were training.

I mean, it was -- that's what it was. And if you read the rest of the op-ed, there's also qualifications that talks about challenges that likens, I think, the effort to, you know, building the world's biggest aircraft while in flight and while being shot at at the same time.

I think it's very important, and I tried to mention this earlier, not to get too hung up on ORA one or ORA two. Those are readiness assessments that we established, actually, a couple of years ago, I think. And it has to do with, you know, do they have a certain percentage of the people they're supposed to have -- the leaders, the equipment and a variety of other assessments?

CASEY: Let me just interrupt you one second.

PETRAEUS: That doesn't -- doesn't mean...

CASEY: But that still has to be the goal, though. Doesn't level one have to be...

PETRAEUS: Well, certainly. As I said, in my long statement, we take that very seriously and we want to fix all the shortcomings. But the fact is that I don't know that they're going to be able to fix some of the shortcomings in the number of noncommissioned officers, in particular, or number of officers. It just takes time to develop them.

And let's remember, they have taken serious losses. And I would state again that one big difference between October '05 or whenever it was that I had some optimism -- and actually, my words already, even at that time, if you look at any briefing to your colleagues, was qualified optimist.

And I've dropped even optimist at this point and just say realist.

But the point really is that a unit may not have all the NCOs it's supposed to have, it may not reach the level for ORA one where it's supposed to have to do independent operations, it still may do independent operations. And that is the case in a number of different areas.

And it depends a great deal, actually, on the local conditions. If we can get the local conditions to a better state, as, say, is the case, say, in Nasiriyah or in Anbar even or some of the other areas, then all of a sudden they can actually do reasonably well. Even without having sort of met these criteria, they're actually doing it. In fact, we have some other criteria that just asked the assessment of can they do independent operations, just judgment, as opposed to do they have all the equipment.

Every time they lose a piece of equipment in combat, which happens fairly frequently, until they can get their logistical structure set up, it's just going to drive down that readiness.

And I put the slide in there to be up front, to show, in fact, that they did go backwards in some areas between last year, because of the sectarian violence and the tough fighting.

So I think, again, we don't want to get too fixated on these ORAs. They're important indicators, we need to try to help them everywhere we can to get those levels up, just as we would with our own units. But it doesn't mean that they cannot be conducting actually independent operations because they're ORA two instead of ORA one, if that makes sense to you.

CASEY: That is all my time.

BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator.

CASEY: Thank you.

BIDEN: Senator Webb?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

SEN. JIM WEBB, D-VA.: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Gentlemen, I know you have had a long day and got a long day ahead of you, and actually I do too because I'm on the Armed Services Committee, as well. So regard me as a transitional interrogator here. As soon as I'm done, I'm going to step over there where Senator Vitter was and await your return.

I have three observations that I would like to make just as a result of the give and take on the hearings and then a question for you, General Petraeus.

The first observation I would like to make is, I think, that you understand, both of you, and I hope most people understand, that one of the reasons we are struggling so hard with this is that there are a large number of people in this country who have long national security experience who believe that this war was a horrendous strategic blender -- people like General Scowcroft, and General Zinni, and General Hoar, who both commanded CENTCOM.

And so we are trying to find a way to work the United States out of this situation without further destabilizing the region.

I know, Ambassador Crocker, when you were talking about the consequences of failure, there were many of us who were pointing out that those were actually going to be the consequences of an invasion if we invaded. So that's the conundrum that we're in here, that so much of this discussion is based on.

The second observation would be: I would have to associate myself with something that Senator Obama said, when he was talking about the -- all of these events that have occurred in Al Anbar province. And I think you should be careful about how much you of that you actually attribute to the surge. I say that from some personal perspective. My son fought as an infantry Marine in the worse sections of Ramadi for the last four months of last year and the first five months of this year actually was extended as a result of the surge.

WEBB: But the last four months of '06 were pretty tough months for 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, and they have been given a great deal of credit for the turnaround there, just as a point of observation.

The third is that when I was watching and reading about the hearings yesterday, something did return to my mind, and that was the hearings of '02. Watching government witnesses during those hearings was one of the reasons I decided to eventually get into elective politics, because when the questions were being asked of them in those hearings, over a period of a year, not just the hearings leading up to the vote on going to war, the question was always, How long are we going to be in Iraq? and the answer was always a litany. It was, As long as is necessary and not one day more.

I would venture that I heard that said 50 times watching different hearings.

And we're looking for some specificity. That is the point.

And the other thing that occurred to me reading this morning the results of that was a statement that General Eisenhower made in 1952 when he was deciding to run for president, talking about the fact that the Korean War had gone on for two years and needed to be resolved.

And he said, When the enemy struck, what did America do? It did what it has always done in times of peril, it appealed to the heroism of its youth. The answer to that appeal has been what any American knew it would be. It has been sheer valor, fresh scars, new graves.

Now, in this anxious autumn, from these heroic men, there comes back an answering appeal. It is no whine, no whimpering plea. It is a question that addresses itself to simple reason. It asks, where do we go from here? When comes the end? Is there an end.

And Eisenhower said the first task is to bring the Korean War to an early and honorable end -- an early and honorable end.

And when I look at all of this debate about the surge, the first thing I would say is: This is not a strategy. It was not a change in strategy in my view, in any sense of the word, unless we were able to put into it a strong diplomatic effort and what you're calling reconciliation.

I, as an observer -- and Ambassador Crocker, you've spent your entire life in that region. I have enormous respect for what you've done. I don't see reconciliation, I see maybe an attempt at conciliation, just somehow to bring Iraq together. But without those, this is not -- this is simply a tactical adjustment.

And the one inarguable result of this surge policy has been the disruption of the rotational cycles of deployment for our soldiers and our Marines.

On the one hand, we had the viewpoint of General Casey that fewer Americans on the streets of Iraq cities would require the Iraqis to take greater responsibility for their own future. We had Admiral Fallon testifying before the Armed Services Committee in his confirmation hearing, essentially saying the same thing, that it wasn't the number of troops it was the missions they were being assigned.

On the other, we have this policy which has resulted in extended tours, 15-month deployments for soldiers, with only 12 months at home, and a situation that I personally, and looking at data, also have come to believe is very perilous to the well-being of the volunteer army, its system, the voluntary military system and to the well-being of these people, just the plain well-being of these people.

And we are the stewards of these people. Our traditional policy from the time I was in the Marine Corps was two for one. If you're gone a year, you're back two years. If you're gone six months, you're back a year.

The British in Iraq had a policy of four to one, six month employment, two years back. The policy right now, particularly on the Army side, is three-quarters to one.

General Petraeus, what is your view of that policy, that dwell- time policy?

PETRAEUS: Senator, my view is that I obviously would like to see our soldiers and our Marines and all forces have more time with their families between deployments.

It's one reason that on the record in that confirmation hearing I believe I stated that our ground forces, in fact, because of the strain and so forth, needed to be larger.

In this mission, though, I am the Multi-National Force-Iraq commander. And what I've been charged to do and I think what all of you want me to do or what Americans should want a commander on the ground to do is to the best he can to accomplish the military tasks associated with the policy that has in fact -- from which that mission is derived.

WEBB: So what is your view of a one-to-one floor for troops?

PETRAEUS: Senator, again, just as a general proposition, the more time that our soldiers can have at home with their families obviously, is the better. And as I mentioned, I also am acquainted with that personally. And I'm also very keenly aware of the stress and strain that this has put on our ground forces in particular and, as I said, some of the other high-demand, low-density assets.

WEBB: Here's the difficulty that I have, and it's the reason that I put this amendment into the system. When the Army went to 15 months, General Casey, as chief of staff, called me to inform me.

And I said, How can you do this? How can you cause people to serve 15-month deployments with the supposed good news that they're going to get 12 months at home? It just violates everything that I've ever heard about from the day I was born, being around the United States military.

He said, We feed the strategy. They tell us the number of people that they need and we feed the strategy and then, from a strategic side, it's, we build the strategy and they feed us the troops.

And somewhere in here, in my view, there has to be the notion that, after 4.5 years in Iraq, we need to be shaping the operational environment and the well-being, on a floor, for our troops.

PETRAEUS: Senator, that is -- as I mentioned, that is something that very much informed my recommendation.

In fact, as I mentioned, several of the brigades will in fact come out before the 15-month mark because of the way that we will be withdrawing brigades without replacement.

And the strain on the force, again, was very much one that informed the recommendations that I have made. And it will inform the recommendations that I made for the point beyond which we've already made recommendations on.

WEBB: Well, my time is up, Mr. Chairman. I may want to revisit this a little bit in the next hearing.

BIDEN: Well, Senator, I hope you do.

Gentlemen, I appreciate your testimony. And I think it's long past time we level with the American people. You know, General, you talk about the ORA, whether it's one or two. That doesn't mean anything to the American people.

What they want to know is what they were promised. And that is, when an Iraqi force can be able to supplant an American force. And with all due respect to both of you -- you're not setting the overall strategic doctrine here -- I don't see anything that leads to an early and honorable end to this war.

The truth is, we're going to be down to pre-war level -- pre-surge levels next summer. And the truth is, if you listen to all the testimony, it's going to be at least a year after that before you're going to have Iraqi troops, at a minimum, be able to replace American troops.

You're talking about American troops being there in the numbers like they're in now, 130,000, for a couple more years, if you level with the American people.

And there is no clear political plan the administration is pushing. None whatsoever.

And my conversation with my chairman here, Senator Lugar, and others, the idea that we have a generic plan, other than stand up the Iraqis and bring together the folks in Baghdad for a government that is not engaging in a competition for power among ethno-religious groups is -- I don't see any of it.

And I think the obligation we have is to bring this to an early and honorable end. And I don't see -- I respect you both very much. You've given great tactical judgments here about what's going on.

But I don't see any plan in terms of leveling with the American people where we're going to able to tell them your kids are coming home, being able to be replaced either because you have a unity government in Baghdad and/or the end of the sectarian violence or Iraqis who can take over for all the American forces there.

But you have a long day, you've had a long day. I look forward to being able to continue to talk with you fellows. I wish you luck in the next hearing.

And God love you. I don't know how your physical constitution is going to handle this, going straight through. I hope you get a few minutes to get -- someone bought you a sandwich or something. So thank you both for your testimony.

We're adjourned.


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