'I wrote this testimony myself,' Petraeus swears before Congress
General says success in Iraq 'will be neither quick, nor easy'
In his testimony before Congress Monday, Gen. David Petraeus was quick to counter suggestions that his assessment was little more than a recetation of White House talking points.
"I wrote this testimony myself," Petraeus assured the assembled lawmakers and observers, as well as viewers of all three cable news networks, which carried the hearings live. Critics had seized on reports that Petraeus's progress report was actually being written by the White House to undercut his testimony, and some have accused the administration of "cherry picking" intelligence assessments designed to show progress in Iraq.
The top US commander in Iraq asked lawmakers to give the military more time in Iraq, citing military gains in some areas, but acknowledging that political reconciliation has been slow to materialize.
Although Petraeus argued that US goals could be achieved in Iraq over time, doing so "will be neither quick nor easy," he told a joint hearing of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees Monday.
Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the top US diplomat in Iraq, echoed the tough-but-achievable sentiment towards progress in Iraq.
"This process will not be quick," Crocker said. "It will be uneven, punctuated by setbacks as well as achievements."
Both officials called for a continuation of President Bush's buildup of US troops in Iraq, which began earlier this year, and they argued that an early withdrawal of US troops would make matters worse.
Petraeus said a one Marine unit of about 2,000 troops would come home beginning later this month, followed by another Army brigade in December. But he said the US military presence would not fall to its pre-surge levels until mid-July of next year. He did not address reports that the US military is too stretched to maintain the surge much beyond next spring.
Although he did not mean for his assessment to be "disheartening," Crocker warned that measuring progress and assigning a date for complete withdrawal will be nearly impossible.
"There will be no single moment at which we can claim victory," he said. "Any turning point will only be recognized in retrospect."
Later, Crocker said he "cannot guarantee success in Iraq," but he believed "it is attainable."
He warned that a premature drawdown of troops "will bring failure."
"Undoubtedly Iran would be a winner in this scenario," Crocker said.
Petraeus also echoed the harsh rhetoric against Iran, accusing it several times of funneling weapons and other support to Shiite militias in Iraq. (Some have speculated that attempts to link Iran to Iraq is paving the way for a US invasion of that country as well.)
Petraeus cited some decreases in violence, and cooperation among former insurgents and US troops in Anbar Province as evidence that the surge is working, but some independent assessments have called such findings into question.
The following video is from CNN.com, broadcast on September 10.