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Petraeus Testimony Field Manual « The Washington Independent

Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2008/09/petraeus-front.jpgGen. David Petraeus (WDCpix)

Today, Gen. David H. Petraeus will update Congress on the status of the Iraq war. The general is so respected as a military officer that his September run through the Capitol Hill gauntlet effectively deflated political opposition to continuing the war and forestalled Democratic calls for withdrawal. The surge received a congressional reprieve after his testimony.

Now the surge is over — the final additional brigades are just leaving Iraq — and Petraeus’ goal is different: halting troop reductions amid a rising tide of violence from terrorists, insurgents and militias.

The leading Democrats in Congress, well aware of the political potency of Petraeus’ last round of testimony, are already sending the general the message that he’ll face tougher questioning in this election year. But with all the talk about what questions Petraeus is likely to face next week, less attention has been paid to what the general’s potential answers could be — and what his comments could indicate about the war and the politics of continuing it.

Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2008/09/petraeus-lights-small.jpg The Washington Independent’s national security reporter Spencer Ackerman will cover the hearing closely on the site’s staff blog, The Independent Streak. In the meantime, here’s a guide to four expected questions. Presented with each are some of Petraeus’s possible options for addressing them — and what his choice of answers could mean.

“Actually, violence is still down compared to the levels experienced in the aftermath of the 2006 Samarra shrine bombing. : “Yes, there are problems with the Iraqi government. But to characterize it as you have misunderstands the magnitude of both the challenge and how far the Iraqis have come in a short period of time. Over the past year, we’ve had laws passed governing oil wealth distribution, de-Baathification, provincial elections and we have more on the way. What’s more, bottom-up reconciliation has paid real dividends in provinces like Anbar, and that can only influence national decisions. When the provincial elections occur in October, those reconciliation efforts will be evident among the new leadership.”: Petraeus feels that lying about Iraqi politics is necessary to preserve current troop levels.

: “I can’t tell you whether the Iraqi government is worth supporting. What I can tell you is that as long as it remains the policy of the U.S. to support that government, there are certain resources that I, as a military commander, require to complete my mission. Those include an at-least-temporary pause in troop reductions.”Petraeus is trying hard to stay out of the broader political debate over whether the war is worth the costs. He’s also telling Congress that he’s an apolitical figure caught in the midst of a policy dispute. The subtext: he’ll be just as willing to do what a Democratic president wants.

: “That’s more of a question for Amb. Crocker. Ryan?”Petraeus wants to go home. Now.

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