Mission Accomplished

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, September 11, 2007; 12:22 PM

There is a recurring theme in many of the news analyses and opinion pieces about yesterday's congressional testimony by Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. See if you can spot it.

Paul Richter writes in the Los Angeles Times: "The talk in Washington on Monday was all about troop reductions, yet it also brought into sharp focus President Bush's plans to end his term with a strong U.S. military presence in Iraq, and to leave tough decisions about ending the unpopular war to his successor.

"The plans outlined by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, would retain a large force in the country -- perhaps more than 100,000 troops -- when the time comes for Bush to move out of the White House in January 2009."

While the testimony "made the administration's general goals clear, it left uncertain their thinking on a variety of key issues," Richter writes.

"Nothing new was said, for example, on how the administration intends to try to break apart the governmental gridlock in Baghdad, which has obstructed the administration's plan to bring about national reconciliation through agreements by the national government. . . .

"Also unanswered was what course the administration will take if it turns out that fewer U.S. forces are unable to maintain the current level of security when the five brigades leave by summer.

"Those issues most likely will be left for the next president, whose new job is looking tougher all the time."

Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks write in The Washington Post: "If Gen. David H. Petraeus has his way, tens of thousands of U.S. troops will be in Iraq for years to come."

Neither Petraeus nor Crocker offered a "clear pathway or timeline to reach the end," DeYoung and Ricks write.

"Judging by the relatively mild congressional reaction in a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, Petraeus and Crocker may well succeed this week in deflecting Democratic demands to bring the troops home sooner rather than later. They are likely to face tougher questioning -- and stiffer challenges to the emerging trends they described -- from two Senate committees today. But by the time President Bush speaks to the nation later this week, September's much-anticipated battle over Iraq policy may be all but over."

David S. Cloud and Thom Shanker write in the New York Times: "Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander in Iraq, warned in stark terms against the kind of rapid pullback favored by the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, in a day of testimony on Monday that drove home the continuing inability of the Democrats to force a change in strategy in Iraq. . . .

"The hearings had been expected to provoke an epic confrontation between opponents of the war and its front-line leaders. But that conflict did not fully materialize Monday, in part because only a few Democrats on two House committees seemed inclined to dispute with much vigor the assessments provided by a commander with medals on his chest and four stars on his shoulders."

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