Petraeus's Remarks During the House Committee on Armed Services Hearings on Iraq

CQ Transcripts Wire
Wednesday, April 9, 2008; 1:56 PM

PETRAEUS: Well, Mr. Chairman, Congressman Hunter, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to provide an update on the situation in Iraq and to discuss the recommendations I recently provided to my chain of command.

Since Ambassador Crocker and I appeared before you seven months ago, there has been significant but uneven security progress in Iraq. Levels of violence and civilian deaths have been reduced substantially.

Al Qaida Iraq and a number of other extremist elements have been dealt serious blows. The capabilities of Iraqi security force elements have grown. And there has been noteworthy involvement of local Iraqis in local security

Nonetheless, the situation in certain areas is still unsatisfactory and innumerable challenges remain. Moreover, as events in the past two weeks have reminded us, the progress made since last spring is still fragile and reversible.

Nonetheless, security in Iraq is better than it was when we reported to you last September, and it is significantly better than it was 15 months ago when Iraq was on the brink of civil war and the decision was made to deploy additional U.S. forces to Iraq.

A number of factors have contributed to the progress. First has been the impact of increased numbers of coalition and Iraqi forces. You're well aware of the U.S. surge.

Less recognized is that Iraq has also conducted a surge, adding well over 100,000 additional soldiers and police to its security force ranks in 2007 and slowly increasing its capability to deploy and employ these forces.

A second factor has been the employment of coalition and Iraqi forces in the conduct of counterinsurgency operations, deployed together to safeguard the Iraqi people, to pursue Al Qaida Iraq, to combat criminals and militia extremists, to foster local reconciliation, and to enable political and economic progress.

Another important factor has been the attitudinal shift among certain elements of the Iraqi population. Since the first Sunni "awakening" in late 2006, Sunni communities in Iraq increasingly have rejected Al Qaida Iraq's indiscriminate violence and extremist ideology.

Over time, "awakenings" have prompted tens of thousands of Iraqis, some former insurgents, to contribute to local security as so- called "Sons of Iraq." With their assistance and with relentless pursuit of Al Qaida Iraq, the threat posed by AQI, while still lethal and substantial, has been reduced significantly.

The recent flare-up in Basra, southern Iraq and Baghdad underscored the importance of the cease-fire declared by Muqtada al- Sadr last fall as another factor in the overall reduction in violence.

Recently, of course, some militia elements have become active again. Though a Sadr stand down order resolved the situation to a degree, the flare-up also highlighted the destructive role Iran has played in funding, training, arming and directing the so-called "special groups" and generated renewed concern about Iran in the minds of many Iraqi leaders.

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