The tremendous sources here at Blackfive have gotten me a copy of the opening statement Gen. Petraeus will make tomorrow to Congress. It is refreshing to hear this kind of candor and I can't wait to see the stunned, slack-jawed looks on their faces. (I didn't use many of my code words, but LT Nixon noted in the comments that Gen. Petraeus would never use words such as naysayers or defeatists. This is an Uncle J wishful thinking edition) Once again, since I seem to have perfectly channeled a partisan Petraeus, I wrote this. He will be much more level and not take the shots I did.
Members of Congress,
I am here as you required by law to provide a report on progress made in the past 6 months in Iraq. I am not here as a partisan or supporter of any political candidate or agenda, simply the Commander on the ground and representative of all the 150k+ troops serving there. First I would like to honor their tremendous efforts and the sacrifices they all have made, the fallen, the wounded and the amazing families that support them.
My last testimony provoked claims that disbelief must be willfully suspended in order to accept it. The uniform I wear precludes me from answering such slurs directly, but fortunately the facts about our successes in Iraq do a better job of refuting the naysayers and defeatists than I would.
Ladies and gentlemen, the past 6 months have seen changes that have amazed many who have served there previously and returned. Areas that were al Qaeda strongholds and basically no-go zones for US troops now have Iraqi security forces in control and the local populace living safe and productive lives. Sectarian violence is down 90% from just a year ago, suicide bombings down 70%, and roadside IEDs dropped by 50%. Those are strong indicators of a greatly improved security situation.
The question raised by many during my last testimony was whether the gains we have been making would lead to the political reconciliations necessary to allow a free Iraq to flourish as a stable democracy. There were benchmarks established by this Congress, and while it would be fair to question the efficacy of standards arbitrarily invented by an outside group, lets look at what the Iraqis have done. The recent $50 B budget they passed included sharing oil revenues, which now exceed Saddam era quantities, with all the provinces a major step toward gaining the trust of the people for the national government. They set provincial elections to ensure that all Iraqis have a voice in their government. Elections were boycotted by most major Sunni groups the first time and this new round will allow them to directly affect their own prosperity. They passed re-Baathification rules that allow members of the Baathist party to re-enter public society and to regain access to pensions they earned serving the previous government. These three steps alone illuminate the difference our change in strategy and the attendant increases in security have allowed to happen.
These successes stem directly from the shared sacrifices our troops made by moving out among the people and using a counter-insurgency strategy. This allowed local Iraqis and the national security forces to begin to act against al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shia militias who were the causes of the death and destruction that had plagued Iraq. Our troops stood back to back with the Concerned citizens and Sons of Iraq who said Enough! to the horrific violence that plagued the country. They have now taken the lead in many operations and will continue to do so, but they still need our help and support and in some cases our direct combat power. The reason that the insurgent groups no longer sow chaos is that they cannot hide among a populace that doesn't support them or fear them. The Iraqi public and members of insurgent groups who saw the light have provided tremendous intelligence allowing the Iraqis, with our assistance, to kill or capture thousands of the killers who made Iraq a living Hell for several years.
Recent fighting in Basra was portrayed in the media as showing the weakness of the central government in the face of a resurgent Mahdi Army supported, supplied and in many cases commanded by Iran. While it was pleasant to hear the truth about the Iranian influence the rest of the analysis was wholly inaccurate. A fair look would note that the Shia-dominated Iraqi Army marched on the Iranian-backed, illegal Shia militias in ways many said could not happen. They killed hundreds of the killers who previously had reigned in terror using power drills to rend the skulls of any who opposed them. Now the Kurds, Sunnis and moderate Shia in the Parliament are banding together to pass a law forbidding any group that has illegal militias from sitting in Parliament, which would effectively eliminate al Sadr's power base unless he disbands his militias.
Pulling our troops out of this front in the long war on Islamic Extremism would jeopardize all of this and simply cede a victory to al Qaeda and Iran. That would leave us to fight them later in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East as they would know the US is the weaker horse as bin Laden has called us. Just this week al Qaeda's #2 Ayman Zawahiri answered a question posed to him by stating that the primary battle ground against the infidels was in Iraq. I am forced to agree with him and fortunately for us we are beating them soundly there. But to change strategy now would eliminate the progress we and the Iraqis have made and leave an opening al Qaeda would be sure to exploit.
I, more than anyone, bear the responsibility for the lives of those under my command. If I could tell the President to bring them home because we have finished the job and secured victory I would do so immediately. But we are not through yet and to pull back now would dishonor the sacrifice of the 4000+ of our finest who have consecrated that ground with their blood. So I ask the Congress to truly support the troops and allow them to complete their mission. It is the best thing for them, for the Iraqis and for an America that honors it's commitment to freedom and liberty.