Report: Petraeus 'softened' intelligence findings on Iraq's progress
Before the top US military and diplomatic officials in Iraq testify in front of Congress next month, the House will receive a dire independent assessment of progress there, the Washington Post reports. The newspaper also reveals that Gen. David Petraeus "softened" intelligence findings on Iraq's progress in advance of his appearance.
The 70-page Government Accountability Report "paints a bleak picture of prospects for Iraqi political reconciliation," the Post reports, based on the assessment of senior administration officials who have seen it. The House also will hold hearings next week on a second report from an independent commission of military experts, which is still being drafted.
In two weeks, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will testify to Congress, based on assessments in a White House-produced report on political and military progress in Iraq.
"The two reports -- and hearings on them in the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees -- will set a largely negative backdrop for Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Crocker, who are expected to testify together in a joint hearing before the two House committees and in a separate session in the Senate," Karen DeYoung writes in Tuesday's Post.
A National Intelligence Estimate released last week found "measurable but uneven improvements" in Iraq's security and concluded that the "level of overall violence ... remains high." Petraeus "succeeded in having the security judgments softened to reflect improvements in recent months," a senior US military intelligence officials told the Post.
Testimony from Petraeus and Crocker is expected to closely reflect the findings of the NIE, administration officials told the Post. Their testimony, along with the White House's report to be delivered later, are meant to assess political and military progress associated with a "surge" of US troops into the country began by President Bush earlier this year.
An interim report in July reported mixed results, and showed satisfactory progress on fewer than half of the 18-benchmarks tied to the surge.
Excerpts from the Washington Post:
Bush continued his efforts to frame the debate yesterday, congratulating Iraqi politicians on an agreement they announced Sunday in Baghdad. The accord reached by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish representatives "reflects their commitment to work together for the benefit of all Iraqis," Bush said in a visit to Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
The agreement called for the release of thousands of detainees being held without charge, reform of a law barring members of Saddam Hussein's party from government jobs, regulation of the oil industry and provincial elections. Those elements are among a set of congressionally mandated benchmarks, and all require approval of Iraq's parliament. No details of the accord were released, and Sunni politicians expressed skepticism yesterday that Maliki's Shiite-dominated government would push for enactment of the measures.
Bush is scheduled to deliver today the second of two speeches designed to describe Iraq as caught between two forces that threaten U.S. security -- Sunni extremism, personified by al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban, and the Shiite extremism of Iran and its Mideast proxies Hamas and Hezbollah. The president plans to tell an American Legion convention in Reno, Nev., that an increase in U.S. combat forces in Iraq begun early last spring has been operational only for 75 days, a senior administration official said, yet gains are apparent. "It's understandable that political progress has been slower than security," the official said.
In a speech last week to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bush compared the Iraq conflict to the Vietnam War, arguing that a U.S. troop withdrawal would lead to widespread death and suffering as he said it did in Southeast Asia three decades ago.
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