The horse and pony show finally got underway after audio mishaps, testy hearing members, and mouthy protesters. Even Cindy Sheehan made a brief appearance but was quickly arrested.
Of course Democrats have little positive to say. From the AP:
“General Petraeus has been tasked with stalling Congress to keep the troops in the middle of a civil war. General Petraeus has failed to give Congress an independent assessment of the Iraq war. His statement sounds like the president’s talking points,” said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, a 2008 presidential candidate..
“Our brave American service men and women are sacrificing daily for a policy that has no end in sight. A policy of more of the same is no strategic vision, strains our military to the breaking point, and enables Iraqi leaders to dither endlessly instead of reaching a political consensus over the future of their country,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
“No amount of sugar coating and spin can change one simply fact — four years after the president’s invasion of Iraq our troops are caught in the midst of a civil war with no end in sight, and it’s up to the US Congress to use the power of the purse to force the President to bring them home,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., a longtime opponent of the war.
But Petraeus said a quick departure from Iraq would allow Al Qaeda in Iraq to regain its faltering foothold, and a premature withdrawal would leave instability in many areas that are now achieving sustainable security.
The general said the number of “security incidents” and civilian deaths in Iraq is on the decline and the number of Iraqi forces standing up to fight has increased in the last 12 weeks. He said the overall number of security incidents in the last two weeks was at the lowest levels since June 2006.
Among key points from Gen. Petraeus:
– “I wrote this testimony myself. It has not been cleared by nor shared with anyone in the Pentagon, the White House or the Congress.”
– Planned withdrawal of roughly 30,000 U.S. troops by next summer
– U.S. troops had met its military objectives “in large measure”
– About 2,000 Marines will depart Iraq later this month, beginning a draw down that would be followed in mid-December with the departure of an Army brigade numbering 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers
– “I believe that we will be able to reduce our force to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer without jeopardizing the security gains that we’ve fought so hard to achieve”
Read the Petraeus’ Report to Congress on the Situation in Iraq here.
For a wrap-up of the today’s hearing, read the story from the AP courtesy of the Houston Chronicle.
The hearings continue Tues. at 9:30 Eastern Time. Watch it on C-SPAN.