Petraeus, Crocker Testify at House Armed Services Committee Hearing on Iraq

CQ Transcripts Wire

April, 9 2008

SPEAKERS: REP. IKE SKELTON, D-MO. CHAIRMAN REP. JOHN M. SPRATT JR., D-S.C. REP. SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, D-TEXAS REP. GENE TAYLOR, D-MISS. REP. NEIL ABERCROMBIE, D-HAWAII REP. SILVESTRE REYES, D-TEXAS REP. VIC SNYDER, D-ARK. REP. ADAM SMITH, D-WASH. REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ, D-CALIF. REP. MIKE MCINTYRE, D-N.C. REP. ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, D-CALIF. REP. ROBERT A. BRADY, D-PA. REP. ROBERT E. ANDREWS, D-N.J. REP. SUSAN A. DAVIS, D-CALIF. REP. RICK LARSEN, D-WASH. REP. JIM COOPER, D-TENN. REP. JIM MARSHALL, D-GA. DEL. MADELEINE Z. BORDALLO, D-GUAM REP. MARK UDALL, D-COLO. REP. DAN BOREN, D-OKLA. REP. BRAD ELLSWORTH, D-IND. REP. NANCY BOYDA, D-KAN. REP. PATRICK J. MURPHY, D-PA. REP. HANK JOHNSON, D-GA. REP. CAROL SHEA-PORTER, D-N.H. REP. JOE COURTNEY, D-CONN. REP. DAVE LOEBSACK, D-IOWA REP. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-N.Y. REP. JOE SESTAK, D-PA. REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, D-ARIZ. REP. ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, D-MD. REP. KENDRICK B. MEEK, D-FLA. REP. KATHY CASTOR, D-FLA. REP. NIKI TSONGAS, D-MASS.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, R-CALIF. RANKING MEMBER REP. H. JAMES SAXTON, R-N.J. REP. JOHN M. MCHUGH, R-N.Y. REP. TERRY EVERETT, R-ALA. REP. ROSCOE G. BARTLETT, R-MD. REP. HOWARD P. "BUCK" MCKEON, R-CALIF. REP. WILLIAM M. "MAC" THORNBERRY, R-TEXAS REP. WALTER B. JONES, R-N.C. REP. ROBIN HAYES, R-N.C. REP. TODD AKIN, R-MO. REP. J. RANDY FORBES, R-VA. REP. JEFF MILLER, R-FLA. REP. JOE WILSON, R-S.C. REP. FRANK A. LOBIONDO, R-N.J. REP. TOM COLE, R-OKLA. REP. ROB BISHOP, R-UTAH REP. MICHAEL R. TURNER, R-OHIO REP. JOHN KLINE, R-MINN. REP. PHIL GINGREY, R-GA. REP. MIKE D. ROGERS, R-ALA. REP. TRENT FRANKS, R-ARIZ. REP. BILL SHUSTER, R-PA. REP. THELMA DRAKE, R-VA. REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS, R-WASH. REP. K. MICHAEL CONAWAY, R-TEXAS REP. GEOFF DAVIS, R-KY. REP. DOUG LAMBORN, R-COLO. REP. ROB WITTMAN, R-VA.

WITNESSES: GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS (USA), COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ RYAN CROCKER

[*] SKELTON: Ladies and gentlemen, before we start, General, Ambassador, I have a quick housekeeping announcement. The ranking member and I have agreed that for our second hearing today, which begins at 1 o'clock, we'll deviate from the regular process for questioning.

And for this afternoon's hearing, we'll start the questioning with members who are here for this hearing, but did not get to ask a question and are present at the gavel for the second hearing. And we will then proceed in the usual order, beginning with them.

We also want to announce we will take a very short break this morning at 11 o'clock. And if you have any questions regarding this, ask the staff.

Today, the House Armed Services Committee meets in open session to hear an update on Iraq from two of America's finest, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Gentlemen, we thank you for appearing. I'm glad to see you both and believe that our nation is well served by your leadership.

This committee does not forget all the personnel who serve valiantly under General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker and who work day and night on our behalf. They and their families have sacrificed tremendously in an effort to carry out a most challenging mission. Where there's been progress, it's due to their efforts, and we thank them.

We should not begin this hearing without recalling how we got here. Iraq was invaded on incorrect information. The turbulent aftermath following the initial military victory was not considered, despite warnings of the aftermath, including two such warnings from me. Now we're in our sixth year of attempting to quell this horrendous aftermath.

Preparing for this hearing, I went back and read my opening statement from our last hearing with you in September. And I think I could have delivered the same statement today as I did then, which means I either repeat myself or thing haven't changed that much in Iraq.

One thing I do think is worth repeating here is to remind members and everyone watching the hearing that all of us, everyone, desires to bring the war in Iraq to a close in a way that will best preserve our national security in this country. We must approach Iraq by considering our overall national security. Iraq is clearly an important piece of that puzzle, but only one piece. Admiral Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and General Hayden, the director of the CIA, have both said publicly that the next attack on our homeland will likely come from the Afghanistan- Pakistan border, where Osama bin Laden is hiding.

Troops in Iraq or those in units recovering from being in Iraq cannot be sent to Afghanistan to hunt down bin Laden. Protecting this nation from direct attack is job number one, yet our allocation of forces does not match this imperative.

Yes, Senator Warner asked whether our efforts in Iraq are making this nation safer. When looking at the needs in Afghanistan, the effort in Iraq, however as important, is putting at risk our ability to decisively defeat those most likely to attack us. Iraq is also preventing us from effectively preparing for the next conflict.

We've had 12 military contingencies in the last 31 years, some of them major, and most of them unexpected. The Army will face a steep climb in trying to respond to another contingency. Readiness for most non-deployed units has fallen to unprecedented levels and nearly all training is focused on counterinsurgency operations.

Those contingencies have come on average about every five years. We're due for another. And in my view, we're not doing what we must to prepare.

Turning back to Iraq itself, we should all recall that the surge is just the latest in a line of plans, and we're in our sixth year of war in Iraq. We've seen just about everything, from Secretary Rumsfeld's denial that there was an insurgency to Ambassador Bremer's throwing fuel on the fire by firing every Baathist and member of the Iraqi army.

We tried assaulting Fallujah twice. We tried rushing the Iraqi army into combat, only to watch it fail. We tried pretty much everything before we got to trying counterinsurgency doctrine backed by increased forces. That worked tactically. Our forces have helped reduce violence.

But in my view, we cannot call the surge a strategic success without political reconciliation. The objective of the surge was to create the political space for the Iraqis to reconcile. Our troops have created that space, but the Iraqis have yet to step up.

There have been some local gains and some legislative accomplishments, but those mostly haven't been implemented. So we don't know if those will really help or not.

And reconciliation based on a sharing of resources, a guarantee of political participation, equal treatment under the law, and protection from violence regardless of sect simply hasn't happened. The United States has poured billions of dollars into Iraqi reconstruction, and yet our senior military leadership considers an Iraqi commitment of a mere $300 million for the reconstruction as a big deal.

This nation's facing record deficits, and the Iraqis have translated their oil revenues into budget surpluses rather than effective services. Under these circumstances and with a strategic risk to our nation and our military readiness, we and the American people must ask: Why should we stay in Iraq in large numbers?

So if our witnesses want to argue for keeping large numbers in Iraq, I hope you can also explain the next strategy. The counterinsurgency strategy worked tactically, but the surge forces are going home. Political reconciliation hasn't happened, and violence has leveled off and may be creeping back.

So how can we encourage and not force the intransigent political leaders of Iraq to forge a real nation out of the base sectarian instincts? So what is the new strategy?

Last time you were here, General, you spoke of speeding up the Baghdad clock while putting more time on the Washington clock. You've succeeded in putting more time on the Washington clock, but the strategic failure is that the Iraqi politicians don't seem to have picked up a sense of urgency.

In my view, that sense of urgency will only come when we take the training wheels off and let the Iraqis begin to stand on their own two feet. While we hold them up, there's no real incentive for them to find their balance.

In closing my comments in the September hearing, I quoted Tom Friedman, the journalist, saying that he would be convinced of progress in Iraq by the various sectarian leaders stepping forward, declaring their willingness to work out their differences on a set timeline, and asking us to stay until they do. They hadn't done that by last September, and I don't see a lot of change on that front.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I now turn to my good friend and ranking member Mr. Duncan Hunter for any comments that he might have.

HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing.

And, gentlemen, I think when I see this team of leaders together appearing before us as they did last year, I think of the words "duty, honor, country," because you represent, I think, great models for young Americans who would go into public service, either on the State Department side or on the military side.

And behind you are lots and lots of family members representing all of the thousands of people in the military and in foreign service, thousands of family members who haven't seen their loved one for a long time. And I know you've endured some big separations, as have your personnel. We want to thank you for your service to this country.

You know, Mr. Chairman, it was 15 months ago when the president announced the surge. And even before -- even a few days after it had been announced, some members of Congress were declaring failure of this increase in American forces going into country. And yet, I think by all metrics, it's been a success.

And I'm reminded that in Anbar province, where you had, by some accounts and by some statistics, the most dangerous of situations, the situation is extremely benign.

In fact, I've seen Marines coming back in large numbers from Anbar province without combat action ribbons for a simple reason: They didn't make contact with the enemy, because there isn't contact and contention to be had in most parts of that province now.

And, generally, the violence level has dropped throughout Iraq as a result of the surge operation.

Now, you know, we've looked at this initial foray of the Iraqi army undertaken under the leadership of this newly formed Iraqi government in Basra. And that's been described by some critics as a "failure," because they didn't complete all the objectives that they undertook.

Mr. Chairman, I see it exactly the opposite. I see this as inevitable and necessary for the engagement on the field of combat by the Iraqi military, undertaking their own operations.

And as I understand it -- and I hope you'd elaborate today and explain today your evaluation of the performance of the Iraqi army -- but only with a few enablers being contributed by the United States, they undertook their own operations, meaning they had stand on the field of battle. They had to face bullets. They had to have a -- utilize their own chain of command, their own logistics capability, and their own battlefield effectiveness in this operation.

And, General, I remember when we had the first battle of Fallujah, and green Iraqi troops were rushed to that battle to participate with the Marines in that operation and, the next day, those troops did not show up. They weren't trained; they didn't have discipline; and they moved out of that battle area very quickly and very abruptly.

And today we see Iraqi forces which are standing and fighting, which are exercising that chain of command and that logistical capability. And I would hope that today you could give us your unvarnished opinion on the standup of the Iraqi military, because, in my estimation, a reliable Iraqi military is a key to the United States leaving Iraq in victory.

So I would hope that we would have some detail devoted to your evaluation of how they're doing. They've now stood up 134 battalions. A number of them have been engaged in some fairly heavy warfare. Others are located in more benign regions of the country and haven't been engaged in extensive operations, but I hope you would give us today your testimony, and your description, and your evaluation of how well the Iraqi army is standing up.

Also, I hope, General, that you'll go into the issue of desertions. I've seen that one figure was that there was 4 percent desertions in the Basra operations. I would hope you could tell us to what extent those were members of the military police, to what extent those were members of the Iraqi army, so we can get an understanding of, in your estimation, what that's attributable to and what kind of a grade you'd give them on that particular operation.

HUNTER: Mr. Chairman, there's a lot of dissent as to whether or not the Iraqi government has utilized this space that has been given to them by the surge operation and this quelling of violence, whether they've utilized that to their best advantage, in terms of political reforms that will move this country down the road.

I would hope also, Ambassador Crocker, you can give us your best evaluation as to how far down the road they've moved, whether you think they've made reasonable progress, inadequate progress, and what do you expect them to do in the future and the extent of engagement that you think we should undertake to ensure that they continue to improve.

Also, I would hope both gentleman could comment today on the extent of Iranian participation in the Iraqi situation, and particularly, General Petraeus, with respect to Iran's training and equipping of the anti-government forces in Basra, to what extent you think that will now shape the security situation, whether Iran is backing off or going in full force with their special operations and their intel in trying to train and equip and affect the military situation inside Iraq.

So if you could touch on that, I think that's very important to us.

But, Mr. Chairman, I think we have before us today two outstanding leaders who really represent the best in a model of service to this great country. I think they've made enormous advances and improvements since this last hearing that we held.

And I look forward to the hearing today and to learning especially your unvarnished take on the standup of the Iraqi military apparatus.

Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: Mr. Hunter, thank you.

Gentleman, again, we're very, very pleased that you are here today and look forward to your testimony.

General?

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.

Unchecked, the "special groups" pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.

As we look to the future, our tasks, together with our Iraqi partners, will be to build on the progress achieved and to deal with the many challenges that remain.

I do believe that we can do this while continuing the ongoing drawdown of the surge forces.

In September, I described the fundamental nature of the conflict in Iraq as a competition among ethnic and sectarian communities for power and resources.

This competition continues, influenced heavily by outside actors, and its resolution remains the key to producing long-term stability in Iraq. Various elements push Iraq's ethno-sectarian competition toward violence.

Terrorists, insurgents, militia extremists and criminal gangs all pose significant threats. Al Qaida's senior leaders, who still view Iraq as the central front in their global strategy, send funding, direction and foreign fighters to Iraq.

Actions by neighboring states compound the challenges. Syria has taken some steps to reduce the flow of foreign fighters through its territory but not enough to shut down the key network that supports AQI. And Iran has fueled the violence in a particularly damaging way, through its lethal support to the "special groups."

These challenges in recent weeks' violence notwithstanding, Iraq's ethno-sectarian competition in many areas is now taking place more through debate and less through violence.

In fact, the recent escalation of violence in Baghdad and southern Iraq was dealt with, temporarily, at least, by most parties acknowledging that the rational way ahead is political dialogue rather than street fighting.

Though Iraq obviously remains a violent country, we do see progress in the security arena.

As this chart illustrates, for nearly six months security incidents have been at a level not seen since early to mid 2005, though the level did spike in recent weeks as a result of the violence in Basra and Baghdad, but has begun to turn down again, though the period ahead will be a sensitive one.

As our primary mission is to help protect the population, we closely monitor the number of Iraqi civilians killed due to violence.

As this chart reflects, civilian deaths have decreased over the past year to a level not seen since the February 2006 Samarra mosque bombing that set off the cycle of sectarian violence that tore the very fabric of Iraqi society in 2006 and early 2007.

Ethno-sectarian violence is of particular concern in Iraq, because it is a cancer that continues to spread if left unchecked. As the box on the bottom left of this chart shows, the number of deaths due to ethno-sectarian violence has fallen since we testified last September.

A big factor has been the reduction of that violence in Baghdad. Some of this decrease is, to be sure, due to sectarian hardening of certain Baghdad neighborhoods. However, that is only a partial explanation, as numerous mixed neighborhoods still exist.

In fact, coalition and Iraqi forces have focused along the fault lines to reduce the violence and enable Sunni and Shia leaders to begin the long process of healing in their local communities.

As the next chart shows, even though the number of high-profile attacks increased in March as Al Qaida lashed out, the current level of such attacks remains far below its height a year ago.

Moreover, as we have helped improve security and focused on enemy networks, we have seen a decrease in the effectiveness of such attacks.

The number of deaths due to ethno-sectarian violence in particular, as I noted, has remained relatively low, illustrating the enemy's inability to date to reignite the cycle of ethno-sectarian violence.

The emergence of Iraqi volunteers helping to secure their local communities has been an important development. As this chart depicts, there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq, Shia as well as Sunni, under contract to help coalition and Iraqi forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads.

These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence, not to mention the priceless lives saved, have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts.

Sons of Iraq have also contributed to the discovery of improvised explosive devices and weapons and explosives caches. As this next chart shows, in fact, we have already found more caches in 2008 than we found in all of 2006.

Given the importance of the Sons of Iraq, we're working closely with the Iraqi government to transition them into Iraqi security forces or other employment. And over 21,000 have already been accepted into the police or army or other government jobs. This process has been slow, but it is taking place.

Al Qaida also recognizes the significance of the Sons of Iraq, and Al Qaida Iraq elements have targeted them repeatedly. However, these attacks, in addition to Al Qaida Iraq's use of women, children and the handicapped as suicide bombers, have further alienated AQI from the Iraqi people.

And the tenacious pursuit of Al Qaida Iraq, together with AQI's loss of local support in many areas, has substantially reduced its capability, numbers and freedom of movement.

This chart displays the cumulative effect of the effort against AQI and its insurgent allies. As you can see, we have reduced considerably the areas in which AQI enjoys support and sanctuary, though there clearly is more to be done.

Having noted that progress, Al Qaida Iraq is still capable of lethal attacks, and we must maintain relentless pressure on the organization, on the networks outside Iraq that support it and on the resource flows that sustain it.

This chart lays out the comprehensive strategy that we, the Iraqis and our interagency and international partners are employing to reduce what AQI needs.

As you can see, defeating Al Qaida in Iraq requires not just actions by our elite counterterrorist forces but also major operations by coalition and Iraqi conventional forces, a sophisticated intelligence effort, political reconciliation, economic and social programs, information operations initiatives, diplomatic activity, the employment of counterinsurgency principles in detainee operations, and many other actions.

Related to this effort, I applaud Congress' support for additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in the upcoming supplemental as ISR is vital to the success of our operations in Iraq and elsewhere.

As we combat AQI, we must remember that doing so not only reduces a major source of instability in Iraq, it also weakens an organization that Al Qaida's senior leaders view as a tool to spread its influence and foment regional instability.

Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have consistently advocated exploiting the situation in Iraq, and we have also seen Al Qaida Iraq involved in destabilizing activities in the wider Mideast region.

Together with the Iraqi security forces, we have also focused on the "special groups." These elements are funded, trained, armed and directed by Iran's Quds force with help from Lebanese Hezbollah.

It was these groups that have launched Iranian rockets and mortar rounds at Iraq's seat of government in the International Zone.

Iraqi and coalition leaders have repeatedly noted their desire that Iran live up to promises made by President Ahmadinejad and other senior Iranian leaders to stop their support for the "special groups."

However, nefarious activities by the Quds force have continued, and Iraqi leaders now clearly recognize the threat they pose to Iraq.

We should all watch Iranian actions closely in the weeks and months ahead, as they will show the kind of relationship Iran wishes to have with its neighbor and the character of future Iranian involvement in Iraq.

We have transferred responsibilities to Iraqi forces as their capabilities and the conditions on the ground have permitted. Currently, as this chart shows, half of Iraq's 18 provinces are under provincial Iraqi control.

Many of these provinces, not just the successful ones in the Kurdish regional government area, but also a number of southern provinces, have done well. Challenges have emerged in some others, including, of course, Basra.

Nonetheless, this process will continue, and we expect Anbar and Qadisiyah provinces to transition in the months ahead.

Iraqi forces have grown significantly since September, and over 540,000 individuals now serve in the Iraqi security forces. The number of combat battalions capable of taking the lead in operations, albeit with some coalition support, has grown to well over 100.

These units are bearing an increasing share of the burden as evidenced by the fact that Iraqi security force losses have recently been three times our own.

We will, of course, conduct careful after-action reviews with our Iraqi partners in the wake of recent operations, as there were units and leaders found wanting in some cases, and some of our assessments may be downgraded as a result.

Nonetheless, the performance of many units was solid, especially once they got their footing and gained a degree of confidence, and certain Iraqi elements proved very capable.

Underpinning the advances of the past year have been improvements in Iraq's security institutions.

An increasingly robust Iraqi-run training base enabled the Iraqi security forces to grow by over 133,000 soldiers and police over the past 16 months, and this still-expanding training base is expected to generate an additional 73,000 soldiers and police through the rest of 2008.

Additionally, Iraq's security ministries are steadily improving their ability to execute their budgets. As this chart shows, in 2007, as in 2006, Iraq's security ministries spent more on their forces than the United States provided through the Iraqi security forces fund.

We anticipate that Iraq will spend over $8 billion on security this year and $11 billion next year, and this projection enabled us recently to reduce significantly our Iraqi security forces fund request for fiscal year 2009 from $5.1 billion to $2.8 billion.

While improved, Iraqi security forces are not yet ready to defend Iraq or maintain security throughout the country on their own. Recent operations in Basra highlight improvements in the ability of the Iraqi security forces to deploy substantial numbers of units, supplies and replacements on very short notice.

They certainly could not have deployed a division's worth of army and police units on such short notice a year ago.

PETRAEUS: On the other hand, the recent operations also underscored the considerable work to be done in the areas of expeditionary logistics, force enablers, staff development, and command and control.

We also continue to help Iraq through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. As of March 2008, the Iraqi government has purchased over $2 billion worth of equipment and services of American origin through FMS. Since September, and with your encouragement of the organizations in the FMS process, FMS deliveries have improved.

While security has improved in many areas and the Iraqi security forces are shouldering more of the load, the situation in Iraq remains exceeding complex and challenging. Iraq could face a resurgence of AQI or additional Shia groups could violate Sadr's cease-fire order. External actors like Iran could stoke violence within Iraq, and actions by other neighbors could undermine the security situation, as well.

The Commanders' Emergency Response Program, the State Department's quick response fund, and USAID programs enable us to help Iraq deal with these and other challenges. To that end, I respectfully ask that you provide us by June the additional CERP funds requested by the supplemental.

Encouragingly, the Iraqi government recently allocated $300 million for us to manage its Iraqi CERP, to perform projects for their people while building their own capacity to do so, recognizing our capacity to help them.

The Iraqi government has also committed $163 million to gradually assume Sons of Iraq contracts, $510 million for small business loans, and $196 million for a joint training, education and reintegration program.

The Iraqi government pledges to provide more as they execute their budget passed two months ago. Nonetheless, it is hugely important to have our resources continue, even as Iraqi funding begins to outstrip ours.

Last month, I provided by chain of command recommendations for the way ahead in Iraq. During that process, I noted the objective of retaining and building on our hard-fought security gains while we draw down to the pre-surge level of 15 brigade combat teams.

I emphasized the need to continue work with our Iraqi partners to secure the population and to transition responsibilities to the Iraqis as quickly as conditions permit, but without jeopardizing the security gains that have been made.

As in September, my recommendations are informed by operational and strategic considerations. The operational considerations include recognition that the military surge has achieved progress, but that that progress is reversible. Iraqi security forces have strengthened their capabilities, but still must grow further.

The provincial elections in the fall, refugee returns, detainee releases, and efforts to resolve provincial boundary disputes will be challenging. The transition of Sons of Iraq will require time and careful monitoring. Withdrawing too many forces too quickly could jeopardize the progress of the past year. And performing the necessary tasks in Iraq will require sizable conventional forces, as well as special operations forces and adviser teams.

The strategic considerations include recognition that the strain on the U.S. military, especially on its ground forces, has been considerable.

A number of the security challenges inside Iraq are also related to significant regional and global threats. And a failed state in Iraq would pose serious consequences for the greater fight against Al Qaida, for regional stability, for the already-existing humanitarian crisis in Iraq, and for the effort to counter-malign Iranian influence.

After weighing these factors, I recommended to my chain of command that we continue the drawdown of the surge forces and that, upon the withdrawal of the last surge brigade combat team in July, we undertake a 45-day period of consolidation and evaluation.

At the end of that period, we will assess the conditions on the ground and determine where and when we can make recommendations for further reductions.

This process will be continuous, with recommendations for further reductions made as conditions permit. The approach does not, to be sure, allow establishment of a set withdrawal timetable. However, it does provide the flexibility those of us on the ground need to preserve the still-fragile security gains our troopers have fought so hard and sacrificed so much to achieve.

With this approach, the security achievements of 2007 and early 2008 can form a foundation for the gradual establishment of sustainable security in Iraq. This is not only important to the 27 million citizens of Iraq; it is also vitally important to those in the gulf region, to the citizens of the United States, and to the global community.

It is clearly in our national interest to help Iraq prevent the resurgence of Al Qaida in the heart of the Arab world, to help Iraq resist Iranian encroachment on its sovereignty, to avoid renewed ethno-sectarian violence that could spill over Iraq's borders and make the existing refugee crisis even worse, and to enable Iraq to expand its role in the regional and global economies.

In closing, I want to comment briefly on those serving our nation in Iraq. We've asked a great deal of them and of their families, and they have made enormous sacrifices. My keen personal awareness of the strain on them and on the force as a whole has been an important factor in my recommendations.

The Congress, the executive branch, and our fellow citizens have done an enormous amount to support our troopers and their loved ones. And all of us are grateful for that. Nothing means more to those in harm's way than the knowledge that their country appreciates their sacrifices and those of their families.

Indeed, all Americans should take great pride in the men and women serving our nation in Iraq, civilian as well as military, and in the courage, determination, resilience and initiative they demonstrate each and every day. It remains the greatest of honors to soldier with them.

Thank you very much.

SKELTON: General, we certainly thank you for your testimony, for being with us today.

Ambassador?

CROCKER: Mr. Chairman, Congressman Hunter, members of the committee, it is an honor to appear before you today to provide my assessment of political, economic and diplomatic developments in Iraq.

When General Petraeus and I reported to you in September, I gave my considered judgment as to whether our goals in Iraq were attainable. Can Iraq develop into a united, stable country with a democratically elected government, operating under the rule of law?

Last September, I said that the cumulative trajectory of political, economic and diplomatic developments in Iraq was upwards, although the slope of that line was not steep. Developments over the past seven months have strengthened my sense of a positive trend.

Immense challenges remain and progress is uneven and often frustratingly slow, but there is progress. Sustaining that progress will require continuing U.S. resolve and commitment. What has been achieved is substantial, but it is also reversible.

Five years ago today, the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad. The euphoria of that moment evaporated long ago, but as Iraq emerges from the shattering violence of 2006 and the early part of 2007, there is reason to sustain that commitment and the enormous investments we have made both in the lives of our young, brave men and women and our resources.

Let me describe the developments upon which I base such a judgment.

The first is at the national level in the form of legislation and the development of Iraq's parliament. In September, we were disappointed that Iraq had not yet enacted some key pieces of legislation.

In the last several months, Iraq's parliament has formulated, debated vigorously, and in many cases passed legislation dealing with vital issues of reconciliation and nation-building. A pension law extended benefits to individuals who had previously been denied them because of their service under the former regime.

The accountability and justice law, de-Baathification reform passed after lengthy and often contentious debate, reflecting a strengthened spirit of reconciliation, as does a far-reaching amnesty law.

The provincial powers law is a major step forward in defining the relationship between the federal and provincial governments. Passage of this legislation required debate about the fundamental nature of the state, similar in its complexity to our own lengthy and difficult debate over states' rights.

The provincial powers law also called for provincial elections by October 1st of this year, and an electoral law is now under discussion that will set the parameters for these elections.

All major parties have announced their support for elections, and these will be a major step forward in Iraq's political development, setting the stage for national elections in late 2009.

In January, a vote by the Council of Representatives to change the design of the Iraqi flag means the flag now flies in all parts of the country for the first time in years.

The passage of the 2008 budget, with record amounts for capital expenditures, ensures that the federal and provincial governments will have the resources for public spending.

Mr. Chairman, all of this has been done since September. These laws are not perfect and much depends on their implementation, but they are important steps.

Also important has been the development of Iraq's Council of Representatives as a national institution. Last summer, the Council of Representatives suffered from persistent and often paralyzing disputes over leadership and procedure. Now it is successfully grappling with complex issues and producing viable trade-offs and compromised packages.

As debates in Iraq's parliament become more about how to resolve tough problems in a practical way, Iraqi politics have become more fluid. While these politics still have a sectarian bent and basis, cross-sectarian coalitions have formed around issues and sectarian political groupings, which often were barriers to progress, have become more flexible.

Let me also talk about the intangibles: attitudes among the Iraqi people. In 2006 and 2007, many of us understandably questioned whether hatred between Iraqis of different sectarian backgrounds was so deep that a civil war was inevitable.

The Sunni awakening movement in al-Anbar, which so courageously confronted Al Qaida, continues to keep the peace in the area and keep Al Qaida out. Fallujah, once a symbol for violence and terror, is now one of Iraq's safest cities.

The Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala are enjoying security and growing prosperity in the wake of popular rejection of extremist militia activity. The Shia clerical leadership, the marjiya, based in Najaf, has played a quiet but important role in support of moderation and reconciliation.

In Baghdad, we can see that Iraqis are not pitted against each other purely on the basis of sectarian affiliation.

The security improvements of the past months have diminished the atmosphere of suspicion and allowed for acts of humanity that transcend sectarian identities.

When I arrived in Baghdad a year ago, my first visit to a city district was to the predominantly Sunni area of Dora. Surge forces were just moving into neighborhoods still gripped by Al Qaida. Residents also were being terrorized by extremist Shia militias.

Less than a year later, at the end of February, tens of thousands of Shia pilgrims walked through those streets on their way to Karbala to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. Sunni residents offered food and water as they passed through, and some joined the pilgrimage.

News from Iraq in recent weeks has been dominated by the situation in Basra. Taken as a snapshot, with scenes of increasing violence and masked gunmen in the streets, it is hard to see how the situation supports a narrative of progress in Iraq. And there is still very much to be done to bring full government control to the streets of Basra and eliminate entrenched extremist criminal and militia groups.

When viewed with a broader lens, however, the Iraqi decision to combat these groups in Basra has major significance.

First, a Shia-majority government, led by Prime Minister Maliki, has demonstrated its commitment to taking on criminals and extremists regardless of sectarian identity.

Second, Iraqi security forces led these operations in Basra and in towns and cities throughout the south. British and U.S. elements played important roles, but these were supporting roles, as they should be.

The operation in Basra has also shaken up Iraqi politics. The prime minister returned to Baghdad from Basra shortly before General Petraeus and I left for Washington, and he is confident in his decision and determined to press the fight against illegal groups, but also determined to take a hard look at lessons learned.

The efforts of the government against extreme militia elements have broad political support, as a statement April 5th by virtually all of Iraq's main political leaders -- Sunni, Shia and Kurd -- made clear.

A wild card remains the Sadrist trend and whether the Iraqis can continue to drive a wedge between other elements of the trend and Iranian-supported Jaish al-Mahdi special groups.

A dangerous development in the immediate wake of the Basra operation was what appeared to be a reunification between special groups and the mainline Jaish al-Mahdi. We also saw a potential collapse of the Jaish al-Mahdi freeze in military operations.

As the situation unfolded, however, Muqtada al-Sadr issued a statement that disavowed anyone possessing heavy weapons, which would include the signature weapons of the special groups. This statement can further sharpen the distinction between members of the Sadrist trend, who should not pose a threat to the Iraqi state, and members of the special groups, who very much do.

One conclusion I draw from these signs of progress is that the strategy that began with the surge is working. This does not mean, however, that U.S. support should be open-ended or that the level and nature of our engagement should not diminish over time. It is in this context that we have begun negotiating a bilateral relationship and agreement between Iraq and the United States.

CROCKER: In August, Iraq's five principal leaders requested a long-term relationship with the United States to include economic, political, diplomatic and security cooperation. The heart of this relationship will be a legal framework for the presence of American troops similar to that which exists in nearly 80 countries around the world.

The Iraqis view the negotiation of this framework as a strong affirmation of Iraqi sovereignty, placing Iraq on par with other U.S. allies and removing the stigma of Chapter 7 status under the U.N. Charter, pursuant to which coalition forces presently operate. Such an agreement is in Iraq's interest and ours.

U.S. forces will remain in Iraq beyond December 31, 2008, when the U.N. resolution presently governing their presence expires. Our troops will need basic authorizations and protections to continue operations, and this agreement will provide those authorizations and protections.

The agreement will not establish permanent bases in Iraq, and we anticipate that it will expressly forswear them. The agreement will not specify troop levels, and it will not tie the hands of the next administration.

Our aim is to ensure that the next president arrives in office with a stable foundation upon which to base policy decisions, and that is precisely what this agreement will do. Congress will remain fully informed as these negotiations proceed in the coming weeks and months.

Mr. Chairman, significant challenges remain in Iraq. A reinvigorated cabinet is necessary both for political balance and to improve the delivery of services to Iraq's people.

Challenges to the rule of law, especially corruption, are enormous. Disputed internal boundaries, the Article 140 process, must be resolved. The return of refugees and the internally displaced must be managed. The rights of women and minorities must be better protected. Iraqis are aware of the challenges they face and are working on them.

Iraq's political progress will not be linear. Developments, which are on the whole positive, can still have unanticipated or destabilizing consequences. The decision to hold provincial elections, vital for Iraq's democratic development and long-term stability, will also produce new strains. Some of the violence we have seen recently in southern Iraq reflects changing dynamics within the Shia community as the political and security context changes. Such inflection points underscore the fragility of the situation in Iraq, but it would be wrong to conclude that any eruption of violence marks the beginning of an inevitable backslide.

In terms of economics and capacity-building, in September, I reported to you that there had been some gains in Iraq's economy and in the country's efforts to build capacity to translate these gains into more effective governance and services.

Iraqis have built on these gains over the past months, as is most evident in the revival of marketplaces across Iraq and the re-opening of long-shuttered businesses. According to a Center for International Private Enterprise poll last month, 78 percent of Iraqi business owners surveyed expect the Iraqi economy to grow in the next two years.

With the improving security and rising government expenditures, the IMF projects that Iraq's GDP will grow 7 percent in real terms this year and inflation has been tamed. The dinar remains strong, and the central bank has begun to bring down interest rates.

Iraq's 2008 budget has allocated $13 billion for reconstruction. And a $5 billion supplemental budget this summer will further invest export revenues in building the infrastructure and providing the services that Iraq so badly needs.

This spending also benefits the United States. Iraq recently announced its decision to purchase 40 commercial aircraft from the U.S. at an estimated cost of $5 billion.

As Iraq is now earning the financial resources it needs for brick-and-mortar construction through oil production and export, our assistance focus has shifted to capacity development and an emphasis on local and post-kinetic development through our network of provincial reconstruction teams and ministerial advisers.

The era of U.S.-funded major infrastructure projects is over. We are seeking to ensure that our assistance, in partnership with the Iraqis, leverages Iraq's own resources.

Our 25 PRTs throughout Iraq have been working to improve provincial and local governance capabilities, particularly in budget design and execution. They are also helping to establish critical linkages between provincial and federal governments.

Our PRTs are great enablers, and we are working to ensure their continued viability as our forces redeploy. The relatively small amounts they disburse through quick response funds have major impacts in local communities. And congressional support is important, as it is for other vital programs in the F.Y. '08 supplemental request.

Iraq increasingly is using its own resources to support projects and programs that we have developed. It has committed nearly $200 million in support of a program to provide vocational training for concerned local citizens who stood up with us in the awakening.

Our technical assistance advisers have helped design new procurement procedures for Iraq's Oil Ministry. We developed the technical specifications from which Iraq's state-owned oil company will build new oil export platforms and underwater pipelines worth over $1 billion.

And in Baghdad, in the last three months the municipality has stepped up to take over labor contracts worth $100 million that we had been covering under the Community Stabilization Program.

Like so much else, Iraq's economy is fragile, the gains reversible, and the challenges ahead substantial. Iraq will need to continue to improve governmental capacity, pass national-level hydrocarbon legislation, improve electrical production and distribution, improve the climate for foreign and domestic investment, create short- and long-term jobs, and tackle the structural and economic problems of the vital agricultural sector.

We will be helping the Iraqis as they take on this challenging agenda, along with other international partners, including the United Nations and the World Bank.

Along with the security surge last year, we also saw a diplomatic surge focused on enhancing U.N. engagement in Iraq, anchoring the International Compact with Iraq, and establishing an expanded neighbors process, which serves as a contact group in support of Iraq.

The United Nations has taken advantage of an expanded mandate granted to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, UNAMI, to increase the scope of its activities and the size of its staff. Under dynamic new leadership, UNAMI is playing a key role in preparing for provincial elections and in providing technical assistance to resolve disputed internal boundaries.

UNHCR has returned international staff to Iraq to assist with the return of internally displaced persons and refugees.

The International Compact with Iraq provides a five-year framework for Iraq to reform its economy and achieve economic self- sufficiency in exchange for long overdue Saddam error debt relief.

Preparations are under way for a ministerial-level compact meeting in Sweden next month; 74 nations were represented in last year's gathering in Egypt.

Iraq's neighbors also understand they have a major interest in Iraq's future. Turkey hosted the second ministerial meeting of Iraq's neighbors in November, and Kuwait will host a third meeting later this month.

In addition to all of Iraq's neighbors, these expanded conferences also include the permanent five members of the Security Council, the Arab League, and the G-8.

Support from Arab capitals has not been strong and must improve, for the sake of Iraq and for the sake of the region. Bahrain's recent announcement that it will return an ambassador to Baghdad is welcome, and other Arab states should follow suit.

Iraq is a multi-ethnic state, but it is also a founding member of the Arab League and an integral part of the Arab world. Last month, Iraq hosted a meeting of the Arab Parliamentary Union, bringing the leaders of Arab parliaments and consultative counsels to Iraq for the first major inter-Arab gathering since 1990.

It is noteworthy that the meeting was held in the Kurdish city of Irbil under the recently redesigned Iraqi flag, highlighting both the remarkable prosperity and stability of Iraq's Kurdish region and the presence of the Iraqi federal state.

We hope that this event will encourage more active engagements with Iraq, and we expect that Prime Minister Maliki's efforts against Shia extremist militias in Basra will also receive Arab support.

The presence of the PKK terrorist organization in the remote mountains of Iraq along the Turkish border has produced tension between Turkey and Iraq and led to a Turkish cross-border operation in February, including movement of Turkish ground forces into Iraq.

At the same time, both governments are working to strengthen their ties, and Iraqi President Talabani made a successful visit to Turkey in March.

Syria plays an ambivalent role. We have seen evidence of efforts to interdict some foreign fighters seeking to transit Syria to Iraq, but others continue to cross the border. Syria also harbors individuals who finance and support the Iraqi insurgency.

Iran continues to undermine the efforts of the Iraqi government to establish a stable, secure state through the arming and training of militia elements engaged in violence against Iraqi security forces, coalition forces, and Iraqi civilians.

The extent of Iran's malign influence was dramatically demonstrated when these militia elements clashed with Iraqi government forces in Basra and Baghdad.

When the president announced the surge, he pledged to seek out and destroy Iranian-supported lethal networks inside Iraq. We know more about these networks and their Quds Force sponsors than ever before, and we will continue to aggressively uproot and destroy them.

At the same time, we support constructive relations between Iran and Iraq and are participating in a tripartite process to discuss the security situation in Iraq. Iran has a choice to make.

Mr. Chairman, almost everything about Iraq is hard. It will continue to be hard as Iraqis struggle with the damage and trauma inflicted by 35 years of totalitarian Baathist rule.

But hard does not mean hopeless, and the political and economic progress of the past few months is significant. I must underscore, however, that these gains are fragile and they are reversible.

Americans have invested a great deal in Iraq in blood, as well as treasure, and they have the right to ask whether this is worth it, whether it is now time to walk away and let the Iraqis fend for themselves.

Iraq has the potential to develop into a stable, secure, multiethnic, multi-sectarian democracy under the rule of law. Whether it realizes that potential is ultimately up to the Iraqi people. Our support, however, will continue to be critical.

I said in September that I cannot guarantee success in Iraq. That is still the case, although I think we are now closer.

I do remain convinced that a major departure from our current engagement would bring failure and we have to be clear with ourselves about what failure could mean.

Al Qaida is in retreat in Iraq, but it is not yet defeated. Al Qaida's leaders are looking for every opportunity they can to hang on.

Osama bin Laden has called Iraq the perfect base, and it reminds us that a fundamental aim of Al Qaida is to establish itself in the Arab world. It almost succeeded in Iraq; we cannot allow it a second chance.

And it is not only Al Qaida that would benefit. Iran has said publicly it will fill any vacuum in Iraq, and extremist Shia militias would reassert themselves. We saw them try in Basra and Baghdad over the last several weeks.

And in all of this, the Iraqi people would suffer on a scale far beyond what we've already seen. Spiraling conflict could draw in neighbors, with devastating consequences for the region and the world.

Mr. Chairman, as monumental as the events of the last five years have been in Iraq, Iraqis, Americans and the world, ultimately, will judge us far more on the basis of what will happen than what has happened. In the end, how we leave and what we leave behind will be more important than how we came.

Our current course is hard, but it is working. Progress is real, although fragile. We need to stay with it.

In the months ahead, we will continue to assist Iraq as it pursues further steps toward reconciliation and economic development. Over time, this will become increasingly an Iraqi process, as it should be.

Our efforts will focus on increasing Iraq's integration regionally and internationally, assisting Iraqi institutions locally and nationally, to strengthen the political process and promote economic activity, and supporting the efforts of the United Nations as Iraq carries out local elections toward the end of the year.

These efforts will require an enhanced civilian commitment and continued support from the Congress and the American people.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I want to recognize and thank all those who serve our country in Iraq, both military and civilian. Their courage and their commitment at great sacrifice has earned the admiration of all Americans. They certainly have mine, and it is an honor to serve there with them.

Thank you, sir.

SKELTON: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much.

Mr. Ambassador, in your comments, you said that U.S. support should not be open-ended. I certainly agree with that. And you also point out that whether Iraq realizes its potential is ultimately up to the Iraqi people. Is that not correct?

CROCKER: That is correct, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: You point out in your testimony the need for a reinvigorated cabinet, for political balance, the need for delivery of services to the Iraqi people, the need for the rule of law, the problems of corruption -- which are enormous, you say -- the disputed internal boundaries, the return of refugees, the return of internally displaced people, the rights of minorities and women all must be protected.

All of this is part of what needs to be done in what we call reconciliation, am I not correct, Mr. Ambassador?

CROCKER: Yes, that is correct, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: The surge in forces in the counterinsurgency doctrine has led to reduced violence. And its purpose was to create political space for the Iraqis to move forward on reconciliation within its government and within its people.

Now, we know there's been some incremental progress, but there's not been this fundamental reconciliation, the list of which you just gave us. So where do we go from here? We will be returning the surge forces, redeploying them.

So what is our strategy for the future? What leverage do you have on the Iraqi government to take the training wheels off and to get on with its task? We've been at this now for years. How do you do that, General, Mr. Ambassador?

PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, Mr. Chairman, I would point out that they want to do that as much as we do. Indeed, they are under -- they've put themselves under enormous personal pressure and collective pressure of the various political elements in Iraq to increasingly exercise their sovereignty.

In fact, that's exactly what Prime Minister Maliki did, of course, when he decided, as the constitutional commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Iraq, to deploy forces on short notice to Basra and then to enter into operations against militia elements down there that were the source of crime and other security challenges.

That demonstrates -- that was not something that we pushed him to do, candidly. I mean, there was...

SKELTON: Pull the microphone just a little closer.

PETRAEUS: OK, sir. That was something that they wanted to do. They feel that pressure themselves.

So, again, it's not about us twisting their arm, I don't think, to exercise their sovereignty. It is truly about us enabling that and trying to support it as much as we can, while keeping as light a hand on the bicycle seat as possible.

There are numerous provinces throughout Iraq in which we have no forces or virtually no forces -- perhaps a special forces team or not much more than that. And, by the way, these were challenged -- some of these provinces were challenged during the outbreak of violence that accompanied the start of the Basra operation. And in the bulk of those southern provinces, Iraqi forces proved up to the task.

SKELTON: At what point, General, will you recommend redeployment of additional forces beyond the several brigades that are part of the so-called surge?

PETRAEUS: Well, as I have laid out, Mr. Chairman, we will be reducing by over one-quarter of our ground combat power. It's not just the five...

(CROSSTALK)

SKELTON: From what to what, sir?

PETRAEUS: From 20 brigades to 15 brigade combat teams, and also taking out two Marine battalions and the Marine expeditionary unit. That's a substantial amount.

At the end of that, we think it makes sense to have some time, to let the dust settle, perhaps to do some adjustment of forces, re- evaluation...

SKELTON: That's my question, General. At what point do we start -- do you make recommendations to start going into the 15 brigades?

PETRAEUS: As the conditions are then met, and we look at the security and local governance conditions that allow us to thin out our forces and thereby to redeploy additional elements. And again...

(CROSSTALK)

SKELTON: What would those conditions be, General?

PETRAEUS: As I said, sir, it's essentially what we have used in the past. We are thinning out very substantially right now, and we had to decide where to do that. And we looked at primarily the security and local governance conditions, the enemy situation, the ability of Iraqi security forces to take on more of a load and us to take on less of a load, the ability, again, of the local authorities to carry on and perform tasks in some cases that we were helping or perhaps performing.

Again, those are the conditions that we examine. That's exactly the process that has guided us as we have determined which forces to take out and where to move them during the course of the reduction of the surge forces.

SKELTON: Can you foresee the reduction beyond the 15?

PETRAEUS: I can foresee the reduction beyond the 15, yes, sir. Again, the key is -- in fact, we're looking at four or five locations already that we have an eye on, looking to see if those conditions can be met there. Again, we have a number of months and a number of substantial actions to take before then, but we are already identifying areas that we think are likely candidates for that.

SKELTON: And do you have a judgment as to how many brigades of that 15, as you look at those certain areas, could be redeployed?

PETRAEUS: Sir, I'm not sure -- I mean, again, what we're doing is looking at these different areas.

(CROSSTALK)

PETRAEUS: Now, over time, I think all of them are going to. Again, the question is at what pace that will take place.

SKELTON: Mr. Ambassador, outside businesses, mostly American contractors, have been substantial employers in Iraq. Can you tell us, beyond the American contractual employment, how many market- sustainable jobs have been created in the last 12 months?

CROCKER: I can't give you a reliable figure. Statistics...

SKELTON: What's your best judgment?

CROCKER: Thousands and thousands of jobs, Mr. Chairman. I referred in my testimony to one district of Baghdad, the district of Dora. A year ago, there were no markets, there was no economic activity at all.

The Dora market today has something like 1,000 separate shops that are open and doing business. And this has been replicated throughout the country. In Ramadi and Fallujah, in Anbar, in other parts of Baghdad, there has been a very substantial increase in economic activity and job creation as a result.

The Iraqi government is also moving forward to create more jobs. The Council of Ministers yesterday passed a support program for development in Mosul, Baghdad and Basra, all three areas affected by conflict, $350 million for reconstruction and for job creation. And so this is an ongoing process, as...

(CROSSTALK) SKELTON: My understanding is that some people within our government state that the unemployment rate in Iraq is between 25 percent and 50 percent. If that is the case, can you predict what the unemployment rate will be one year from now, Mr. Ambassador?

CROCKER: Again, I cannot predict what it will be exactly, because, frankly, we don't have a great deal of confidence in figures that indicate what it is now.

There is both unemployment and underemployment. What I would be confident in, with the continuation of the security improvements we've seen, is that in conditions of better security you are going to see more economy activity. And that's certainly...

(CROSSTALK)

SKELTON: Do you agree, Mr. Ambassador, that jobs and economic security are the basis of a strong Iraq?

CROCKER: That is absolutely the case, Mr. Chairman, and that is why both we and the Iraqi government put so much emphasis on job creation and economic development.

SKELTON: Please hold your microphone closer.

Mr. Hunter?

HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thanks for this hearing.

And, gentlemen, excellent testimony. I think you gave us a good broad brush of how things are going.

You know, a reliable, effective military is produced by military operations. And a number of us have recommended that the Iraqi battalions, now numbering 134, I believe, be rotated into combat operations on a regular basis so that they all achieve a certain competency, able to develop their logistics chains, exercise their chain of command, develop battlefield effectiveness. I know we've done that in the Baghdad operations on a regular basis.

So, General Petraeus, could you give us your take on the combat experience of the Iraqi army? How many battalions now have a modicum of combat experience? And how do you grade them? How do you rate them? And you might put that -- you might speak to the Basra experience, as well as the Baghdad experience.

PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, Congressman, I think that just about all of the battalions in the Iraqi army at this point have been in some form of combat with perhaps a few exceptions of units that have just come out of basic training and units set fielding and deployed to areas that are now relatively peaceful, let's say a place like Anbar province, although even there what we are doing is pushing them farther out from Anbar to pursue the enemy, try to keep our hooks in to him.

And so, again, they are getting tested in combat and, by and large, have done well. Again, in the southern provinces in which they were tested recently, virtually all of them, Karbala, Hillah, Wasit, Qadisiyah, Muthanna, Dhi Qar, there were various challenges to them, and the forces responded to those effectively.

In Basra, unfortunately, one of the units that was thrust right into it very quickly was a unit that was just out of its unit set fielding. Others were local police who were intimidatable, if you will, because of coming from local areas and the conditions were not set for them as they might have been, frankly, so that they could get overwhelmed, could get intimidated by individuals who are actually well-equipped and well-trained.

As, however, conditions have been established, as they have now got their footing, as additional experienced forces have flowed into Basra, it's very much an ongoing operation. There is still -- they have then moved on. They've secured the ports; they've secured some key checkpoints and routes through which smuggling flows and so forth.

All of this is still very much ongoing there, as it is in some of the other areas where the violence has gone up in recent weeks.

The units that rotated through Baghdad did well and, in fact, we're able now to -- the Iraqis are able to move them back to the locations from which they came. In several cases, they were from Nineveh province, from Mosul, and they can go back and help with the effort there to keep the pressure on Al Qaida-Iraq.

As you know, the violence by Al Qaida-Iraq has gone down significantly, across the board, with the one exception of Nineveh province. And as we focused on the Euphrates River Valley, then Basra neighborhoods, north and south of Baghdad, Diyala River Valley, Baqouba, and literally moved on up -- however, it has not gone up anywhere near the way it came down across the board in the other provinces.

And, again, up there, they are very much in the lead. As I mentioned, there are over 100 battalions that are assessed to be in the lead, regardless of whether they are Operational Readiness Assessment 1 or not.

Frankly, the ORA is difficult for the Iraqis, because it's a very mechanical assessment. You either have the right number of leaders or you don't, right number of troopers, noncommissioned officers, equipment, maintenance, and so forth.

And what they do is they tend to pull leaders out once they've proven themselves in these units to form new units. And so it's very difficult to keep the manning level to literally keep the arithmetic right to achieve ORA 1 status.

PETRAEUS: What we tend to look at more is, are they capable of being in the lead, which is more based on demonstrated performance? And as I mentioned, there are over 100 of those units.

And in fact, it appears -- we're looking now to confirm that versus their recent performance, and it appears that that generally was an accurate assessment.

HUNTER: Give us your take, if you could, on the success or the degree of success or failures in the Basra operation. What do you see there, General?

PETRAEUS: Well, sir, the deployment was very impressive, frankly. As I mentioned in my statement, there's no way they could have deployed about a division's worth that -- over time, it was three brigades' equivalent of forces, plus a division headquarters and some other -- a lot of enablers.

That never could have happened a year ago. In fact, they didn't have the capability to do that. They then used their C-130s, cycled through multiple sorties a day, to bring in supplies, reinforcements, medical, to backhaul casualties and so on, to deploy their various other elements.

The Iraqi special operations forces elements across the board -- all of them were involved, from the army, the police and various provincial SWAT teams as well -- it was actually SWAT battalions in some cases.

Needless to say, those tended to perform better than the brand new unit that I mentioned and better than local police, again, in very, very contentious areas where they could get overwhelmed quickly and where the conditions weren't set.

And that's the area where there has to be some serious after- action review work done. And that has to do with the setting of conditions, with the planning, the detailed planning, and preparation before going right into combat.

There was, candidly, an expectation that there was going to be more of that done. There were lines of operation, political, tribal, security and so forth, and what happened in the end was there was a pretty precipitous entry into combat operations before, again, some of these units were set the way they should -- but again, the operation very much still ongoing.

HUNTER: So what's the state of play right now in Basra in terms of territory held by the anti-government forces?

PETRAEUS: Well, as I mentioned, the Iraqi security forces took control of the ports, which is very, very important, because some of those were in the grip of militias or smugglers. They have also taken control of some key areas through which smuggling and weapons resupply took place.

On the other hand, there are still some militia strongholds that they will have to deal with over time, and some of this in the end is going to end up being political probably more than it will be military.

There's a lot of discussion -- the president of Iraq yesterday issued a statement about -- or today, I guess it was, issued a statement about militias, as has Prime Minister Maliki and others.

And again, I think some of this is going to have to be sorted out in that end, so that they don't end up in real pitched battle in some of these very densely packed neighborhoods and cause untold damage.

HUNTER: OK. Just a last question on that, General. If you were to give a grade or a status report on the maturation and the reliability of the Iraqi army, where do you put them right now?

PETRAEUS: Well, again, it's a very, very mixed bag across the board, ranging from exceedingly good units in the Iraqi special operations force brigade down to some of these very new units.

So you have to end up somewhere in the middle, and so I think it's somewhere in the "B minus", "B" range, with recognition that there's a lot of work needed to be done still in so-called expeditionary logistics, in a variety of different command and control systems, staff planning and so forth.

HUNTER: OK.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: Senator (ph), thank you very much.

Under the five-minute rule we will proceed.

Mr. Spratt?

SPRATT: General Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker, we're fortunate to have two men of your character, commitment and caliber in the tough assignments that you've got, and we appreciate your service to our country.

The cost of our deployment is not the determining factor in deciding how we size our forces or how long we stay engaged there. But when the cost is $600 billion and rising, and there's no exit sign in sight, it has to be a consideration.

As odd as it may seem, it's a rare briefing, believe me, on the Hill that makes any mention of the cost of the war in Iraq -- it's widely discussed outside that context -- at least not since Secretary Wolfowitz ventured the prediction that this deployment would last no more than six to 12 months and that the Iraqis, with their vast mineral wealth, would be able to shoulder most of the cost.

To put this decision that faces us -- you and us -- in context, the chairman has asked me just to give you a brief -- give us all a brief overview of what the cost of the commitment has been, what's the cost to date, what we have incurred, and what's the cost to go.

The first chart we've got is a very simple table which simply shows that from 2001 through this fiscal year, $608 billion has been provided for Iraq, $771 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan together.

The next chart shows that the cost is climbing every year. Beginning with 2003, there's a steady, steady, relentless increase in the cost of the war, and the total cost there shown is $608 billion.

We've been unable to induce the Department of Defense to do us a projection of the likely cost to go, so we asked our own budget shop, the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, to do such a projection.

And the next chart shows CBO's estimate of the cost from 2009 through 2018. This series of bar graphs assumes that there will be a drawdown to 75,000 troops in both theaters, Iraq and Afghanistan, a very questionable assumption, but that there will be a drawdown to 75,000 troops by 2013, and thereafter sort of a steady state at this level, 75,000 troops, over the next five years through 2018.

So the total cost from 2009, if these projections are anything close to accurate -- the total cost from '09 through 2018 will come to about $1 trillion. If you add this $1 trillion for the out-year costs to the $608 billion already appropriated, the total comes to about $1.6 trillion.

And if you adjust that for debt service -- and we are borrowing every dime of this, so you may as well add the interest to it -- it's well over $2 trillion.

Now, I've run these numbers past the Pentagon. They're not complicated. And I asked them for their projections if they consider ours wrong, or at least their corrections to our projections. They've not validated these numbers, but neither have they invalidated these numbers.

Now, here's what we do have from DOD. We have a request from the Department of Defense for Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009, the next fiscal year, the budget year we're about to begin work on, of $70 billion.

I don't think either one of you would support that number. Indeed, the Pentagon says it's a placeholder. It's a placeholder. But given the supplemental request for this year, which has not been fully appropriated yet, it's $196 billion.

It's hard to believe that we will drop from $196 billion to $70 billion between '08 and '09. So one thing we don't have yet, even though we're about to begin the budget season, is a real number for 2009.

Secondly, we don't have a realistic number for the out years beyond 2009. We have instead, believe it or not, an actual decline in real dollars -- in the Pentagon's FYDP, we have a decline in real dollars for "050" for the Department of Defense budget over the next five -- over the four years following 2009.

I think you would agree that these are consequential numbers whether you agree with the magnitude or -- whether you agree with them exactly or not.

Whenever you spend $2 trillion on one thing, you don't have $2 trillion to spend on something else, and a good example is Afghanistan. Admiral Mullen sat where you sat just last week and said we're under-sourcing, under-resourcing, under-manning Afghanistan.

But to move the resource levels up to where they ought to be, our allies are not coming through with any big numbers. To do that would require that we detract from Iraq.

And as long as Iraq is the number one objective and Afghanistan is a subordinate objective, we don't have the wherewithal to do that. There's an opportunity cost to be paid.

So my basic question is this. Looking at these costs, as you make your assessment of the situation after the five brigade combat teams have been withdrawn, are considerations like this a factor -- the tradeoffs, the effect in stretching out the Army, the priorities that have to be gone?

Is this something that you, too, will weigh in your consideration as to what we should do for our continued deployment?

PETRAEUS: Absolutely, Congressman. In fact, as I mentioned in my statement, that is one of the major strategic considerations that I offered.

SPRATT: Could you tell us what your -- instead of $70 billion, what the likely supplemental request for this year is -- for next year is?

PETRAEUS: Sir, I cannot. As you know, that's a service responsibility.

SPRATT: Thank you, sir. I think we've been overruled.

SKELTON: Mr. Saxton?

SAXTON: Mr. Chairman, may I just ask, Mr. Chairman, if the five- minute rule, as the way it's played out here in the last few minutes -- somehow we need to permit, I would think, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to answer questions.

SKELTON: Certainly.

If you have an answer to that last question, feel free to do so. Thank you very much.

PETRAEUS: Well, what I was going to say, Mr. Chairman, is merely that, again, we work very closely with the services, but at the end of the day, as you well know, it is the services that provide the input to the department and provide those numbers.

SKELTON: Thank you very much.

Mr. Saxton?

SAXTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

General, Ambassador Crocker, first let me thank you for your great candor here this morning in explaining what you see as progress as well as what you see as challenges for the future.

I think that is important that we understand that, we understand your perspectives, and that the American people have an opportunity to understand your perspectives, particularly with regard to their concerns about the future.

General Petraeus, in your testimony, you note your recommendation for a 45-day period of consolidation and evaluation followed by a process of assessment to determine possible further reductions in U.S. force levels in Iraq.

I believe that it's very important that we understand that process and that the American people have an opportunity to understand that process as well, so if you could each take whatever time you need to describe that assessment process, including some of the factors which you will be tracking.

PETRAEUS: Congressman, essentially, at its heart, this is looking at the security and local government conditions in a particular area to determine where and how we can thin out our forces, rather than completely handing off, and that's what we have done already.

In Anbar province, for example, we're in the process of going from 14 battalions down to about six battalions. That is part of the ongoing process.

So this is really an assessment process that we have used repeatedly as we have looked at where we should end up, if you will, in doing the so-called battlefield geometry of determining troop-to- task analysis and where you want to position forces, again, when the dust settles.

That's the same process that we will do in the future. As I mentioned earlier, there are already several areas that we have identified that are the candidate locations for further reductions.

In each case, we sit down with the commanders, with their staffs. We walk the ground. We work with the local authorities. And again, at the heart of it, it has to do with the security situation. What's the enemy situation? What's the Iraqi capability to deal with that? What are the factors in terms of local governance, basic services and other factors that feed into the sense that the population will support their legitimate forces?

And then we determine where we want the forces to end up, in what strength, and that allows you to withdraw certain forces over time.

CROCKER: Sir, there is also what we call a political-military calculus that we have to take into account as well as the battlefield geometry, and one element of that is assessing not only what the conditions are with our current force presence, but how things change as we redeploy, how various elements on the scene may reposition their selves because we're no longer there.

SAXTON: So it's a complex evaluation, both of current conditions, but also projecting how our redeployment will change future conditions.

SAXTON: It sounds to me like you're saying that this process of assessment has been used in the past and it has resulted, at least in -- one result, at least, has been that we are now talking and projecting that we're going to reduce forces, bring the surge folks home, if you will.

So this assessment is not something that you're creating for the future. It's something that's actually been used in the past to arrive at the decisions that you have no made.

PETRAEUS: That's correct, sir. In fact, we're certainly well over halfway through the reduction of the surge forces. And that is exactly the process that we have used, as we have sat down and worked this out.

Obviously, I sat a good bit with the Multi-National Corps-Iraq commander previously General Odierno, now General Austin, as we do that process and work that out. And as I mentioned, we also certainly sit down with the commanders in those areas, walk the streets, talk to local Iraqis, look at the trends, look at the metrics.

I showed you some of the metrics today that, if you look at them on a local basis, again, guide the assessment that I've described to you. But, again, it's exactly the process that we have used to examine where we could, in fact, draw our forces down as we bring the surge forces home.

It has not been just mechanical. We just haven't, you know, pulled one out that we put in. We actually will look a good bit different at the end of this than we did before, as an example, far fewer forces in Anbar province because of the progress that has been made there.

SAXTON: Mr. Chairman, thank you.

SKELTON: Thank you.

Mr. Ortiz?

ORTIZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to thank both of you gentlemen for your service and the sacrifices that you've made. And we appreciate both of you being with us today.

General Petraeus, the human cost of the war is the loss of 4,000 American lives. The security gains of this surge are, in my opinion, arguable, as evidenced by the recent fighting in Baghdad and Basra.

Another cost is the significant decrease in our current military readiness. The fact that nearly all stateside units are unable to complete all of their assigned work, time issues (ph), if called upon for contingency or combat operations, I firmly believe that we have to be prepared to fight yesterday, today and tomorrow, and I'm afraid that we're running out of options, should another contingency arise requiring the use of our ground forces.

Now, how long do you believe that ground forces can sustain the current operational tempo and the pace of deployment? And how much strategic risk as Americans should we expect to assume before we see real progress?

And I ask these questions because we've had different hearings where we see that our equipment has been destroyed, we have too many deployments, the troops are tired.

And maybe you can enlighten the committee as to, how long can the ground forces sustain the current operational tempo and the risk to us Americans that we expect to assume before we see real, real progress in Iraq and Afghanistan?

PETRAEUS: Congressman, as I mentioned in my statement and in response to an earlier question, I am keenly aware of the strain. And I can tell you that there is nothing that a commander feels more than, in fact, the losses that we have sustained over there.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been deployed personally for four-and-a-half years, since 2001, so this is something that my family and I do know a great deal about personally.

The forces that are in Iraq are the ones that I can talk to. And I can tell you that those forces are better prepared to do what we're doing there now than they ever have been at any time that I've been in Iraq.

I've mentioned several times that there were two huge facts that were different when I returned to Iraq in February 2007. One was the damage done by sectarian violence, which was horrific, which we were going to try to stop, and by and large have achieved great progress in stopping. The second was how much more our troopers get it about what it is that they're doing.

And the counterinsurgency is not just stability and support hearts and minds operations. It includes, by doctrine, by definition, offense, defense, as well as civilian support.

And they are conducting big operations on occasion, or have in the course of the past year, in places like Ramadi, south Baghdad, Baqouba, and others, and have done a magnificent job in that, thanks in large measure, by the way, to the equipment and to the vast improvements that have been made and what our soldiers have down range now.

When I look at what we had when I was a division commander, went through the berm and the fight to Baghdad, and what divisions have now, it is extraordinary.

And we are very grateful. I'd like to single out particularly the MRAP vehicles have already saved countless lives in Iraq. And the speed with which you made that happen, together with the department, was very impressive.

Again, having said all that, keenly -- I am aware keenly of the strain and the stress on the force, on the individuals, on equipment, on readiness, and so forth.

Having noted that, paradoxically, our troopers have incredible resilience. The reenlistment of the 3rd Infantry Division, which is completing its third tour in Iraq now, they have already met halfway through the year their reenlistment goal for the entire year.

So there is something special about what it is our men and women are doing in their minds and about the cause that they're serving, if you will. It is something larger than self. It is something that is very important and, of course, ultimately in the battlefield it's about the soldier on their right and left. But they have continued to raise their right hand.

There is one segment of the population that we are concerned about very, and that is the young captains, because some of them have been in a cycle where we have asked an extraordinary amount of them in particular. And I know that our Army is working very hard to look at the issues involving them.

We should note -- and I'm sure the Army has explained -- there is also a different readiness model. There's no question but that the strategic reserve right now is, as General Cody rightly pointed out, the lowest he's seen in his time, but also it is programmed that when units come back that they will re-fit and all the rest of that.

Now, that will be rebuilt over time. I think that, over time, I'm hopeful. I have certainly given my support to 12-month deployments. Operationally, we would welcome that, both because of the strain and the stress, and really just a general recognition of the value in that and hopeful that this reduction can allow that over time.

SKELTON: Thank you very much.

Along that same line, General, do you take into account the strain on the American forces when your recommendations to redeploy from Iraq?

PETRAEUS: Absolutely. Yes, sir.

SKELTON: Thank you.

Mr. McHugh, New York? MCHUGH: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for being here, over 10 hours yesterday before the United States Senate, God knows how many hours today before the House. Your courage, your commitment has been well- underscored, and we appreciate your being here and all that you do.

I guess the big debate right now, the big question is: What, if anything, happens through a precipitous withdrawal?

Both of you have spoken about Basra. I guess we'll be learning lessons there for some time. But as I look at the lead-up to Basra, as I look to what conditions were on the ground there that created the opportunity for the Quds Force to come in, to become involved with the so-called special groups, with the criminal elements that operated out of the port, taking revenues that should have gone to the Iraqi people, and instead directing them into illegal activities, all of the nefarious elements that came to fore there.

Is there a lesson for us to be learned about precipitous withdrawal? We've been blessed with great coalition partners, but in the south I think there is some reason to be concerned that perhaps the turnover there happened without proper conditions on the ground.

Am I totally wrong there? Or are there some lessons we can learn about why we need to be prudent in the days ahead?

PETRAEUS: Well, there are lessons to be learned, but it's also very important to recognize that, again, this was sought by the Iraqis. They very much wanted to have Basra shift to provincial Iraqi control.

There were a number of measures taken to shore up their police and their soldiers in the months prior to the handoff. But there's also no question but then that there were some of these criminal elements that were able to get their tentacles into port operations, some other areas, and that were then leading to bigger problems in Prime Minister Maliki's mind and threatening the security of the area that produces some 90-plus percent of the revenue for Iraq.

But it is, again, why the commanders on the ground, why I have recommended that our reductions be conditions-based. As the ambassador and I both mentioned, there are enormous implications here for really the safety and security of our own country, with respect to Al Qaida, with respect to the spread of sectarian conflict, regional stability in, again, a region that is of obviously vital importance to the global economy, Iranian influence, and so forth.

So there have been gains. We've mentioned both that they are fragile gains and we want to see those hard-won gains preserved by ensuring that conditions are present, albeit with some risk, certainly. We're going to have to take risk.

And, again, I'm keenly aware that there are other risks in Iraq out there. Obviously, the earlier questioning has featured a great deal about that. And I mentioned that in, again, the considerations that I have used to guide the recommendations for the future.

MCHUGH: Thank you. I think all of us, certainly I, feel very strongly that the Iraqi government needs to do more. All of us want to see further gains, even though I would certainly argue there have been substantial amount of progress over the past 12 months or so.

All of us, myself included, are disappointed in the Arab neighbors who definitely need to do more on their own behalf and in terms of their own security, as it is directly affected by Iraq.

And if that were all that were afoot here, I think each and every one of us would vote to bring our forces home as quickly as we could physically do that.

But as I see your testimony here, when, Ambassador Crocker, you talked yesterday about the impact of an early or conditional withdrawal, quote, "with devastating consequences for the region and the world," when both of you talked today, as, General Petraeus, you have, saying, quote, "Al Qaida's senior leaders still view Iraq as a central front in their global strategy," and, Ambassador, you say Osama bin Laden has called Iraq the perfect base, this is not just about Iraq and the benefit of the Iraqi people or even the region, is it?

We are really talking about the primary security interest of each and every American. Or do I have that wrong?

PETRAEUS: It's correct.

CROCKER: It is correct, Congressman. Al Qaida is a strategic enemy of the United States. It was dangerously close to setting down lasting roots in Iraq in Arab territory, which, as I noted in my testimony, is a main goal of this predominantly Arab terrorist organization.

If it were to have succeeded or to succeed in the future, it is certainly my judgment that the threat to the United States would rise considerably.

SKELTON: Thank you.

Mr. Reyes, gentleman from Texas?

REYES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Gentlemen, thank you for being here and for your service to our country.

I, like my colleague, agree that all of us want to see our troops return to home as quickly as possible. And, General Petraeus, I know that you are knowledgeable of the findings of the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.

At this point in time, no portion of the most recent Iraq NIE has been declassified, so we can't talk about the findings of that assessment, at least in an open hearing like this. But in the unclassified key judgments from the August 2007 update, it stated, "There have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq's security situation since our last National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq in January of 2007." That was the August NIE, the declassified portion.

REYES: So as someone like many of my colleagues here today who has studied the current NIE and previous intelligence estimates, I have to say that the situation in Iraq, as has been verified by the director of national intelligence, is somewhat inconsistent with the actions that you are recommending or proposing, in terms of the drawdown of the surge.

So my question is -- and actually two questions. First of all, has the security situation on the ground in Iraq changed so much that we can actually start pulling back the surge forces?

And the second question is, what happens if the security situation changes during the so-called 45-day pause? Are we going to reinstate the surge? And if we are, how long can such a reconstituted surge be sustained, in your opinion?

PETRAEUS: First of all, again, I would not have recommended drawing down the surge if I did not think that the security progress enabled that, not just in terms of all the metrics that I've shown, but also in the slowly but steadily improving capabilities of Iraqi forces, Iraqi governance, and in other aspects that we take into account.

REYES: Irrespective of what's happened in Basra?

PETRAEUS: Irrespective of that.

REYES: Has that caused you any concern?

PETRAEUS: No, in fact, the Iraqis are in the lead in Basra, Congressman. Again, they are the ones -- we have some transition teams, we have some advisers. We certainly have provided enablers in the form of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, close air support, which the Iraqis do not have in sufficient capability yet, but are developing.

REYES: But in your statement, you also said that the current situation is fragile and reversible. So you're not concerned that Basra could be the string that would start unraveling the rest of the fragile stability that you talked about?

PETRAEUS: In fact, in the other seven provinces, it's a reason I highlighted that, because they could succumb to the same kinds of challenges that you have in Basra.

And there were attempts by militia elements in these other southern provinces, virtually all of them that are south of Baghdad, down to Basra, and again in all, but really one, Mi'dan (ph), which is the marsh Arabs who have always been out of control, weren't under control under Saddam and aren't under control by anybody right now, either, frankly.

But the rest of those have done well. In fact, the Iraqi forces in those areas, with small assistance, if any, from our forces, have been equal to the task of ensuring the continued security in those areas.

So I do believe I think we can move this forward and continue on the course that we're on.

REYES: So if at any point in that 45-day pause security deteriorates, what does that mean? What contingency plans do we have? Will you reinstate the surge?

PETRAEUS: I mean, that would be a pretty remote thought in my mind, for a variety of different reasons. One is the strategic considerations that I've explained. The other is we do have an ability to move some forces around, obviously, and we would certainly want to do that, both Iraqi forces as well as our forces.

Again, the Iraqis have now built some capability to respond in the form of the emergency response unit in the Ministry of Interior, this very substantial and very good Iraqi special operations force brigade, and a number of these so-called SWAT, but they're much more than SWAT teams in many cases. In Hillah, for example, it's a SWAT battalion.

And they've moved these around, and they've used these as required. And that would certainly be the option that we would want to see exercised.

REYES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Everett from Alabama?

EVERETT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

General, Ambassador, thank you very much for your service and for those that you lead. We appreciate their dedication to this country.

And, General, I thank you for your earlier service and some of the comments that you had observed in the way that this ought to be conducted in Iraq.

None of us like the cost of this. And if CRS is correct that we're looking at $1 trillion, it's right that we discuss that. And it's also right that we, as Mr. McHugh said, we're disappointed that the Iraqis and the other countries over there are not contributing more to this campaign.

But if we're going to look at that $1 trillion, then we probably should also ask at the same time, how much is 3,000 lives worth? How much is 30,000 lives worth? We've all agreed that we're fighting an enemy that is determined to kill Americans and they will continue to kill Americans. They've been killed Americans for 20, 25 years prior to 9/11.

So while it's fair to bring that figure up, it's also fair to ask, how much value do we place on 3,000 American lives or 30,000 American lives?

Mr. Ambassador, you spoke to this in your testimony, and there's obviously countries over there who disagree with a free Iraq, disagree with free elections, disagree with the fact that all their citizens have rights.

Would you discuss in a little more detail some of those countries that are contributing -- those outside actors, as you said -- that are contributing and, also, how they're contributing, if they're contributing -- the percentage of them that may be in the country, if they're contributing for materials, manpower, and exactly how they're engaged?

And I would hope members would keep in mind that these are countries that do not want us to success in Iraq by any method.

Mr. Ambassador?

CROCKER: Thank you, Congressman.

As I noted in my testimony, as one looks at Iraq's neighbors, the primary problem is with Iran, which, as both the general and I have said, is providing training, equipment, arms, ammunition, and explosives to radical militia elements that they effectively control.

These are groups that target coalition forces, Iraqi forces, and Iraqi civilians. And it is destabilizing to Iraq.

Iran has stated that its policy is to support the Iraqi government. And in my view, if you take sort of an objective analysis of the Iran-Iraq relationship, that is what Iran should be doing, supporting the central government, because the truth is no people suffered more from Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad than the Iranian people, with the sole exception of the Iraqis themselves.

A vicious eight-year war from '80 to '88 cost hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides. So it should be in Iran's national interest to make a sharp departure from the policies they are following into a consistency on the ground with their stated policy of supporting the central government, but that is not what is happening, and the events in Baghdad and Basra of recent weeks have put that into very sharp contrast.

There was a problem with Syria, as we both noted. Foreign fighters, terrorists continue to infiltrate into Iraq through Syria. They have taken some steps to control this, but clearly they have not done enough. These individuals often are not Syrian themselves. They come from other countries in the region. And we actually have seen some effective acts by these countries in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and so forth, to take steps to ensure that their nationals do not have the opportunity to make that journey through Syria.

EVERETT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: Thank you.

We will call on Dr. Snyder and Mr. Bartlett and then take the short break.

Dr. Snyder?

SNYDER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, gentlemen, for being here. We consider you the dream team and very much appreciate your service, but also we appreciate just the reality of the being away from your family and away from your personal life, also, and we appreciate you.

General Petraeus, do you have an exact time in your mind as to when Iraq became the number-one priority, compared to Afghanistan? Is there a date in your mind that you can relate back to when that occurred?

PETRAEUS: Sir, not in mine. I've been pretty head-down inside Iraq for most of that time, and I'm not sure who made that determination, when that was made.

SNYDER: About -- I think it was on March 5th, Admiral Fallon was testifying here and sitting about where you're sitting now, and as Mr. Spratt referred to. And one of the things he said -- maybe it was short-timer's syndrome, I don't know, but he said he needed 2,000 more troops in Afghanistan.

You have talked a lot today and yesterday about conditions-based. Here we had a combatant commander sitting down and testifying he needs 2,000 more troops -- trainers, primarily -- today in Afghanistan. How should the Congress respond to that kind of comment?

PETRAEUS: Well, again, you're asking the commander in Iraq, but I've obviously...

SNYDER: I would assume you would say you would want the troops today.

PETRAEUS: Again, obviously, I mean, I don't know how the Congress responds. I mean, I guess the Congress weighs how much more it can resource. I think you are already funding an expansion of the Army and of the Marine Corps, I believe.

Again, I've been sort of focused on another task for -- but, again, I think... SNYDER: The reason I ask that is because, you know, and I think, Ambassador Crocker, in your written statement you referred to some would choose now to walk away from Iraq. And, you know, the discussions that we have here is, how do we resource everything that we need to do?

And that part of it is, is that when we have Admiral Fallon say we need 2,000 more troops today, not next month, not six months, today, but the reason that's not occurring is because Iraq is priority number one, and most of us aren't sure when that occurred.

We don't know when this need for additional troops is going to be met. We consider Afghanistan also to be an utmost high priority for the United States, and yet it is not happening today.

And we're responsible for it. You're not responsible for it. You're doing great at what you're doing, but we're responsible for it.

I wanted to ask, in this chart here that you presented, the section over here, non-kinetics, this chart that you two presented, and you list services and job programs, I didn't see any charts today in some of the specifics with regard to services.

And I'm going to list some topics here, and you tell me if such a chart would be available. Electricity production availability, prenatal care for pregnant women, vaccination rates for children 5 years of age and under, neonatal deaths, availability of clean and safe water, availability of sewer systems, oil production, oil exports, would you have charts available on all of those indications of services available to the Iraqi people?

CROCKER: We certainly do have data available on some of those categories, oil production, exports, electricity generation, and so forth.

SNYDER: Well, one of the frustrations we have when we hear that things are better in neighborhoods, it's generally people talk about, "Well, we could walk through this neighborhood," but we don't know what's going on behind those doors.

And we're now five years-plus into this. We don't know -- where are we at with the quality of life for children, for health care, for prenatal care? And those are the kinds of things -- economics, I think, is a very hard to get a handle on, as Chairman Skelton was talking about.

But there was a paucity in your presentation, Ambassador Crocker, on those quality of life things for the Iraqi people.

I wanted to ask, with regard to the PRTs, which you talked about, Ambassador Crocker, we have a report coming out, this committee does, in the next couple of weeks on PRTs. And I hope in your free time you'll get a chance to read it, because we'd love to hear your comments on it. We think it's pretty thorough.

But what are the PRTs specific objectives? And how are you measuring the performance of PRTs in meeting those objectives in Iraq?

CROCKER: The PRTs have a number of objectives: improving local governance, improving linkages between local governments and the federal government, helping local governments deliver services to the people, helping them with budget formulation and execution.

CROCKER: We've established what we call a maturity model. All PRTs are required to report quarterly where they are in these various categories, these various responsibilities. And we've developed a set of criteria to ensure a reasonable uniformity, a standard, across the PRTs to measure this.

SNYDER: Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

PETRAEUS: Mr. Chairman, could I just put in a soldier's plug for the PRTs, a commander's plug? Because they have been of enormous value to us, and they have provided expertise to brigade and division commanders that just is not resident otherwise, given -- even with all the tremendous talent that we have even from the Reserve components.

They have been of just enormous help to us.

SKELTON: Thank you.

Mr. Bartlett?

And then we'll have a quick break.

BARTLETT: Thank you both very much for your service and your honest testimony. I have a couple of brief questions that I hope both of you might choose to respond to.

As we stood up in the surge, Moqtada al-Sadr, perhaps in enlightened self-interest, stood down. We do not know how many other insurgent groups following al-Sadr's lead also stood down.

Clearly, in this climate, violence should subside, and it did. How much of the apparent success of the surge is attributable to this stand-down?

Both of you have noted that the tenuous successes are reversible. Is the continued stand-down of the insurgent groups, essential to the continued political improvements, dependent on continuation of the surge?

Or has there been a fundamental cultural change so that insurgent groups' stand-up would no longer be effective?

Is our presence in Iraq equivalent to a temporary plug in a hole in the dike that when removed would result in escalating erosion and ultimate irreversible failure of the dike?

We'd appreciate your observations.

PETRAEUS: Well, Congressman, as I mentioned in my statement, the stand-down of insurgent groups -- or actually, more importantly, the awakening of some insurgent groups to actually actively oppose Al Qaida Iraq and the extremist ideology and violence that they had brought to these local communities has been a very important factor, as has, certainly, the stand-down of the Sadr militia, although we did continue to go after the "special group" elements throughout that time and, in fact, have detained a number of them along with substantial quantities of weapons and documents and so forth that very clearly lay out the role that Iran has played, the contribution that Lebanese Hezbollah has played as well with the Quds force.

To come back to the insurgent groups, the key is, obviously, the transition of them into legitimate employment, legitimate Iraqi security force ranks and so forth. And that process has been ongoing.

It is most advanced in Anbar province -- still some work to be done there, but thousands of the Sons of Iraq, as they're now called, have actually transitioned in Anbar province into the police, the army or into other government employment.

And there's a comprehensive program, as I described, of joint Iraqi-American training and reintegration activities, if you will, to help them transition either to civilian employment, other government employment or, again, the 20 percent, 30 percent or so that will end up in either the Iraqi police or the Iraqi army.

But it is very important that that transition take place, and that was one reason that I listed that as one of the factors, the operational considerations, as we do go forward.

CROCKER: Congressman, I think there has been a fundamental change that is of real significance, and this is a -- it's a popular rejection of terrorism and violence.

We saw it first and most clearly with the Sunni Arab population of Anbar and their courageous stance against Al Qaida, but we've also seen it among the Shia, and this goes back to August when Jaish al- Mahdi, the militias, tried to take control of one of Shia Islam's most holy shrines in the city of Karbala.

There was a very substantial popular backlash against that militia action, and that's what led Moqtada al-Sadr at the end of August to declare a freeze on Jaish al-Mahdi activities.

It wasn't a case so much of him taking a knee to kind of keep his powder dry during the surge. We weren't in that area anyway. It was his recognition that these kinds of militia activities were distinctly unpopular with the Iraqi people.

And I think we're seeing that same thing again in response to the actions in Baghdad and Basra. There is a degree of political unity behind the prime minister for taking these actions that spans the political spectrum, and that's because politicians understand that that's where the people are.

BARTLETT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: Thank you.

We will have a five-minute break, and then we will take up with Mr. Smith and Mr. McKeon.

Let me ask the people in the audience to please remain seated until the two witnesses make the exit for a quick break.

(RECESS)

SKELTON: The hearing will resume.

Mr. Smith?

SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, gentlemen, for your testimony.

I think the thing that we're all struggling with is the ultimate goal here is stability and reconciliation, and there are so many different factors into that. Dr. Snyder mentioned a couple with electricity. You've certainly mentioned a fair number. But ultimately we're sort of looking at, you know, what the long-term goals are and how we get there.

And one of the questions I had -- is there any way that you figure our troops presence in some ways contributes to instability or makes reconciliation more difficult? And if so, how have you factored that into your plans for getting to those ultimate goals?

PETRAEUS: Well, that's very akin, Congressman, to the idea that, in a sense, that we might hold them back in the security tasks, as well. And so it is another area where we're constantly looking at, is this the time to allow them to get into the deep end and be there, if necessary? But how hard do you need to hang on to the bicycle seat, that kind of measure?

And we look at that across the board and in this area, as well, but in the security arena, in local governance, in the provision of basic services, and all the rest of that. We are keenly aware that there could be cases where they're going to say, "Well, why should we do it for ourselves if they're doing it for us?"

Counter to that is this impulse that I mentioned earlier that we have seen repeatedly, really, which is the desire to exercise sovereignty and the desire to be in charge. And occasionally it actually pushes them to do -- more than occasionally, it pushes them to want to do something perhaps before they're completely ready to do that. And there have been some issues that have evolved as a result of that.

SMITH: Do you think our -- on a different issue in the same area, do you think our presence motivates insurgents? I think it clearly motivates Iran to cause more problems in Iraq than they otherwise would, because if we're not there, as I think Ambassador Crocker mentioned, Iran doesn't have much interest in Iraqi instability.

But if we are there, given the conflict we have with Iran and the very real threats that Iran poses, they have to be worried about what our military would do if it got too secure in Iraq.

So do you factor that in, in terms of how we reach ultimate reconciliation with Iran and also with the various Shia factions?

And I want to throw one more question at you, and they're on the Shia factions, because what happened in Basra and Baghdad recently could be simply dismissed at the government versus unlawful militias. But if you dig very deep down, you find out that there's more to it, and it's basically rival militias fighting out.

The Badr Brigades seem to be more closely allied right now with the Iraqi government, but the Badr Brigades also, to some extent, are allied with Iran. So what's our long-term strategy there? Are we really choosing sides between the Badr Brigades and the Mahdi Army? And if so, why do we perceive that to be in our interests?

CROCKER: Those are two very good questions, Congressman. With respect to Iranian activities in Iraq, my earlier comments were my analysis of what I think should be Iran's long-term strategic calculations, not what they necessarily are.

Clearly, they are motivated to try to put pressure on us. That's obviously part of it. But having watched this dynamic for a number of years in the region, I think what the Iranians are doing is pursuing a policy, if you will, of Lebanonization, doing what they did in Lebanon.

And they, in conjunction with Syria, have pursued a policy of backing more than one militia in Lebanon for the last quarter of a century, and we haven't been there in Lebanon as a military force since 1984. So I think they would be pursuing these kinds of efforts in Iraq...

SMITH: I'm almost out of time. Could one of you quickly touch on the issue of the side that we are choosing in the Shia factionalism and why that's in our interests?

CROCKER: Yes, sir, because that is also a very important point. The way Iraqis are reading the events of Basra and Baghdad is the government against extremist militias. That's what has fused political support for Prime Minister Maliki and his government in a way that we just haven't seen, at least during the year I was there. So Iraqis themselves, Kurds and Sunnis, as well as most of the Shia, are perceiving this as government against Shia extremists.

SMITH: Thank you.

SKELTON: Thank you.

Mr. McKeon?

MCKEON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, General, Ambassador, for your service and those of all of the men and women you command and that are out there fighting for our freedoms.

You know, there's lots of discussion as to mistakes that have been made previous. I think those can be discussed forever, but what I would like to focus on a little bit is now going forward from here.

I have a quote from bin Laden. You know, some people say that we should get out right away. Some people say we should phase out. Some people say we should set dates. There's lots of comments.

But I think we've also talked about the price of being there and the price of leaving. And I think bin Laden puts the focus pretty good. He says, "The world's millstone and pillar is in Baghdad, the capital of the caliphate. The whole world is watching this war and the two adversaries, the Islamic nation on the one hand and the United States and its allies on the other. It is either victory and glory or misery and humiliation."

I think he understands the consequences of us leaving early, before we've finished our mission. I'm hopeful that the American people understand that, and I think they do.

General, could you please comment a little bit on the morale of our troops and their families, how they feel about the mission?

PETRAEUS: Congressman, first of all, let me just say that -- I don't want to start off by generalizing about morale. I want to start off by explaining that morale is an individual event.

And morale depends from soldier to soldier and for me, as well, on the kind of day that you're having out there in the theater. And it's a roller-coaster existence.

Now, having said that, as there is actually something called the mental health assessment, which is done every year -- the last one was done in the late fall, I believe it was. And after several years of a generalization of morale as going down, morale actually went up.

We've talked about it, talked to the Command Sergeant Major Hill, my senior noncommissioned officer in MNF-I, and longtime -- same in the 101st Airborne Division, a number of other commissioned, noncommissioned officer leaders and troopers. And I think it is the sense that they have had that they are making progress, that in a number of the different areas where they were operating they could see tangible results and that they saw a reversal of the ethno-sectarian violence, the progress that had been made by Al Qaida, and so forth and so on.

And, of course, if you feel like you're making progress, then I think you obviously feel better about what it is you're engaged in.

Beyond that, the other indicator that we look at very closely, as I mentioned earlier, is reenlistment. And, again, I focus on reenlistment in theater, and it has repeatedly been way above what the goals are for the units that are deployed there.

As I mentioned, one of the units that is there just completing its third tour in Iraq has already met its reenlistment goal for the entire fiscal year.

So, again, no question about the strain, the sacrifice on our troopers and on their families, some of them making the ultimate sacrifice. But our great young men and women continue to raise their right hand and to want to continue to serve, by and large, with perhaps that one population that we're concerned most about, which is the young captains.

And, again, as I mentioned earlier, that's something that I know that my service and the other services are looking very hard at, to try to figure out how to give them some breaks and how to give them additional incentives to stay with this very important mission.

MCKEON: I have just a little time left. Could you expand on the Sons of Iraq and how that is helping us?

PETRAEUS: Well, sir, the Sons of Iraq are individuals that -- it really dates all the way back to Anbar province and the first awakening, which, to be fair, took place -- it started before the surge, but then was very much enabled by the surge, because that enabled us to clear areas over time.

But it started with a sheik in Anbar province coming to a brigade commander in Ramadi and saying back in October 2006, "Would you support us if we turned our weapons on Al Qaida instead of on you?" And the brigade commander got that test question right. He pledged support.

It took some time to build those forces, to get them going, to get it established. By mid-March, they were ready to clear Baqouba -- or, I'm sorry, Ramadi. Over time, this played out in other areas.

Originally, they were not paid. Over time, they did ask if we could pay them, because they were helping with security. We have lots of security contractors, and now we have 91,000 more called Sons of Iraq.

The calculations we've done showed that this is a pretty good bargain, because the cost in their salaries per month is a lot less than the amount of vehicle losses that don't take place because we have this support. They're helping us to hold areas that have been cleared of Al Qaida or their insurgent allies.

So, again, they're a very, very important component of this. They help with local security most of all. And quantity has a quality of its own in counterinsurgency operations, where the enemy can attack anywhere and you must guard everywhere. And they have helped us to do that.

PETRAEUS: They have, by the way, been targeted very heavily by Al Qaida, which shows the importance that Al Qaida sees, because they're also a manifestation of the population rejecting Al Qaida.

And their losses have been somewhere around two and a half times to three times our losses in recent months as Al Qaida has relentlessly tried to go after them, to intimidate them, to get them to desert their posts.

And by and large, they are very much hanging in there. They're fairly cohesive, tribally based elements.

MCKEON: Thank you very much.

SKELTON: Ms. Sanchez?

SANCHEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And thank you, gentlemen, for being before us today. I want to go back to a report that General Jones did back in September, and I know that the last time you were before our committee, it had just come out and we had some discussion over it. But I think that some people have forgotten about this report.

And in particular to General Petraeus, I have a question or several questions with respect to what I call the Iraqification of Iraq, or the Army, the fact that to a large extent, it seems to me, over the last five years or so we have been thinking that the way to get out of Iraq is to set up the army and the police forces and let them take care -- get them to a point where they're -- we leave the country in a stabilized situation and they're able to continue that stability.

So in the September 2007 report of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, which, again, was chaired by General Jim Jones, it painted a fairly pessimistic outlook for Iraqi security independence.

And according to the report, the national police force was dysfunctional and should be disbanded.

The ministry of interior was riddled with corruption and incompetence and that it was a ministry in name only, according to the report.

It said that the Iraqi army was doing better but wouldn't be capable of full operations for at least 12 months to 18 months and was lacking in adequate weapons, transport, logistics, intelligence, planning capabilities.

And of course, I ask this question because we saw their performance, or their lack of performance, in the last couple of weeks in Basra and other areas. It wasn't very encouraging.

And because, again, our general strategy is based on the capabilities of the Iraqi forces, my questions would be, in particular -- and to you, General, because you spent a year in the mission of training those forces.

My questions are, first, do you agree with the findings of General Jones and the commission, and where do you disagree and why? Have you acted on the recommendations of the Jones commission, and which ones of the major recommendations have you acted on?

The commission found that the ministry of interior, the national police and the border guards were heavily infiltrated by sectarian militias and were making little or no contribution to that fight.

Do you agree with that assessment? What have you done to address these problems with the Maliki government? And are there any reforms that are likely to occur because of that?

The report also asserts that the massive troop presence of U.S. military and its facilities creates a perception among the Iraqis that the U.S. forces are a long-term occupying force.

Do you agree with that assessment, and do you agree with the recommendation that significant reductions, consolidations and realignments of the U.S. forces must happen in Iraq in order for that perception to go away?

And what friction do you see because of the fact that we may be looking as an occupying force to the Iraqi population?

And lastly, in theory, reduction of U.S. forces should be possible as Iraqi army forces achieve the necessary state of readiness and effective independent operation.

In light of this reality, what can be done to accelerate the process of training, equipping and transferring responsibility to the Iraqi forces? Should we devote more resources to it? What do we do about those who didn't fight or ran away?

Do you agree with the Jones commission that the Iraqi army is not ready to be independent in 12 months to 18 months? That would be the end of this year.

And how much of the Iraqi army do you believe will really be ready to operate independently within the time frame -- that is, by December of this year?

PETRAEUS: Well, I've tried to write as quickly as I could, Congresswoman. (LAUGHTER)

SANCHEZ: I can go over them again if you like, but...

PETRAEUS: By all means, go -- no, let me try to answer them if I can.

SANCHEZ: You know what I'm asking, General.

PETRAEUS: I do, indeed. First of all, we have acted on a number of the recommendations that the Jones commission report made.

And frankly, we agreed with their assessment of the national police, that it was -- and I am on the record as stating repeatedly that the national police were hijacked by sectarian interests during the height of the sectarian violence, and they had become a sectarian actor.

And in fact, every one of the brigade commanders, division commanders and overall commander of the national police were relieved, as were about 70 percent of the battalion commanders. In one case, by the way, the relief was twice in one unit.

And they actually have -- they have become net contributors now rather than net consumers or net sectarian actors.

And in fact, if you talk to the commanders on the ground in Baghdad or elsewhere where there are national police operating, you'll find that in a number of cases the national police are pulling their load and that the commander of the national police over the course of about the last eight months to 10 months has made substantial progress and that it has been directed by the minister of interior.

Each brigade has gone through a reblueing process, a period of training where the entire brigade goes off to a training center and goes through intensive training. And now the Italian carabinieri are actually in helping units, one after another, to do additional work.

The ministry of interior has worked to reduce sectarian influence, militia influence and so forth. This is not easy when you are in a situation that that ministry was in at the end of the sectarian violence of 2006, 2007. But they have indeed made progress, in our assessment.

I also brought in another team to look at some specific -- based on General Jones' commission's report -- and again did follow a number of the steps with respect to that, as General Dubik, the head of the train and equip mission, has been pursuing.

The Iraqi army has taken over numerous areas already, as I've mentioned in my testimony today, and although there clearly were units that did not measure up and leaders that didn't measure up in Basra -- and by the way, we then -- and together with our Iraqi counterparts -- provided a list of individuals that we thought didn't meet the mark in Basra and as well in Baghdad, and also a list of those who did very well, to provide our input, because they do have a leader assessment process in the ministries of defense and interior, and they will use that. And in some cases, the prime minister directed their relief.

I also mentioned that the Iraqi security forces did do well in the face of violence that sprung up at the time of the Basra operation start in the southern provinces. And again, they did a creditable job.

And those are areas that have been -- many of those have been handed on to provincial Iraqi control. One of the others will be handed off in the next few months.

Again, the same is playing out in Anbar province, of all places -- at one time the most dangerous province in Iraq, now a place where a unit returned to Fort Stewart from the Army as well where the concern of the infantry battalion was that many of them had not received combat infantryman badges because they hadn't been in real combat -- and again, Iraqi forces stepping up in those locations.

So that's, I think, a pretty quick answer, although three minutes over the time.

SANCHEZ: I thank you, General, and I'll submit it to you...

SKELTON: Thank you very much...

SANCHEZ: ... in writing so that you can give the specifics...

SKELTON: Mr. Thornberry?

SANCHEZ: ... because I am interested. Thank you.

PETRAEUS: I'd be happy to do that.

SANCHEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: Mr. Thornberry?

THORNBERRY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

General, today and some yesterday, there have been calls to declassify recent intelligence community assessment. And kind of left hanging is this implication that there's something radically different in this assessment than in your public testimony today.

So I guess I'd just like to ask briefly, do you take intelligence community products into account in writing your public testimony?

And is there's thing substantially different in that particular assessment from the thrust of your public testimony that you've given today?

PETRAEUS: We do take it into account. In fact, you know, we draw very heavily, obviously, on our own intelligence assessments as well, but certain take it into account, and there is not any difference that I'm aware of, having looked at that fairly quickly, between what that says and what we have said.

And I'm not the one who does declassification of intelligence documents.

THORNBERRY: I understand.

Let me go to, I think, maybe a larger point. General, in your testimony, you talked about -- the gradual establishment of sustainable security in Iraq is vitally important to the citizens of the United States.

And Ambassador, in your testimony, you said we have to be clear with ourselves about what failure would mean.

The American people don't hear that sort of talk very much. What they hear is what happened today on the ground with this bombing or this suicide bomber, and that's if something happened on the ground. If it's relatively quiet, they don't get any news.

And I think it's important for them to hear from each of you why Iraq is important, what we have at stake, not just what we're doing for them, but why it's important for us.

So I would invite you both to elaborate on the comments that you made in your written testimony.

PETRAEUS: Well, again, Congressman, I think we have an enormous national interest in the security and stability of Iraq, with respect, as I've mentioned, to Al Qaida Iraq and Al Qaida in that particular area, the possible resumption of sectarian conflict that could not only engulf Iraq once again, but also potentially spread over Iraq's borders.

Some of your members have rightly noted that there is already a humanitarian crisis in Iraq. There are already, by most accounts, somewhere around two million internally displaced and two million others displaced out of the country. That could get far, far worse.

In fact, we have seen some signs of reversal of that, of the security conditions allowing some citizens to return to their homes and their families.

Again, there is certainly a regional stability issue and there's, obviously, an issue in terms of the global economy, with Iraq being the second or third most -- the country with the second or third most oil resources in the world.

CROCKER: Congressman, both General Petraeus and I have spoken about the costs of failure. I'd like to spend just a moment on how a stable and secure Iraq could transform the region.

For most of Iraq's modern history, since the 1958 revolution, Iraq has been a negative factor for regional stability. And indeed, that revolution in '58 and our concerns over where it was going is what triggered the decision to send Marines to Lebanon.

So over the course of the years, we saw the Iran-Iraq war. We saw the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the threat to Saudi Arabia, Iraqi subversion in Syria, in Jordan, in Lebanon. We have an unbroken saga of destabilizing actions or outright military invasions.

A stable Iraq, in my judgment -- and I've spent a lot of time in this region -- could be an anchor in the Arab world and the broader Middle East, and we could have a positive dynamic throughout the region that we really haven't seen for decades.

I can't predict, you know, what the specific consequences of that would be, but it would be a far more positive dynamic than we have seen in literally decades.

SKELTON: I thank the gentleman.

Mr. McIntyre from North Carolina?

MCINTYRE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you both for your service to our country. As I mentioned to General Petraeus before the hearing today, I was in Iraq just 10 days ago and had the opportunity to meet with many of our fine men and women serving our country there, including General Lloyd Austin from Fort Bragg, of whom we are particularly proud in our area of North Carolina, and had opportunities also to visit detainee centers at Cropper and Buka.

I wanted to ask you, Mr. Ambassador, specifically, as we measure progress in Iraq, I'm struck by the fact that there has been no discussion, really, today of where we stand on the 18 benchmarks that were so widely discussed last September.

MCINTYRE: The GAO said we had met three out of 18 benchmarks. Can you tell us what your assessment is as to where we stand on those benchmarks, having heard the testimony today that you all do not believe that timelines are in order? But where do we stand on the benchmarks?

CROCKER: Well, actually, Congressman, I would state that just in about an eight-week period we saw benchmark legislation enacted on accountability and justice -- that's de-Baathification reform -- on amnesty, and the provincial powers law, with its stipulation for elections by this fall, I would also describe as a significant benchmark.

We're actually going through this process right now, doing an updated assessment on the benchmarks. That's something that I expect we'll have done in the next week or so.

But pending that, I would say we're certainly well above three, I would say either achieving or significant progress on about a dozen of them.

MCINTYRE: All right, achieved or significant progress, but as far as checking off the benchmark for having been achieved, can you tell us about how many you think that has been done?

CROCKER: Well, again, we're going through the process right now. And we can and will do that.

In my testimony, as I described the legislative achievements, I did so in their own terms, because this is something I said in September. You can have a situation in which all of the benchmarks are achieved and you still don't have meaningful reconciliation. You can also have circumstances in which relatively few of them are achieved, but you're getting reconciliation anyway.

MCINTYRE: All right. I know my time is limited. Excuse me. So you're saying, within next week, you could provide us an assessment as to where we stand, specifically on the 18 benchmarks that the Iraqi government agreed to meet in working with the U.S. government to make sure that we are accomplishing the political, economic progress that we want to see in the country, as well as the military progress, is that correct?

CROCKER: Yes, sir.

MCINTYRE: Will you submit that to this committee within the next week?

CROCKER: I will.

MCINTYRE: If you would do that in writing, please.

CROCKER: Yes, sir.

MCINTYRE: Thank you.

And, General Petraeus, I just wanted to ask, with regard to local police, following up on Ms. Sanchez's question, I've heard a continuous concern. We talked today about national police and also the military and commend for your work with the military and all that you've done with the national police.

Can you tell us your assessment of the corruption problem with the local police?

PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, Congressman, if I could just add that everybody in the Tar Heel State ought to be very proud of the 18th Airborne Corps headquarters, Lloyd Austin, and his great team, and all the other troopers and Marines from Fort Bragg and points east...

MCINTYRE: And thank you for your service there, too.

PETRAEUS: ... who have served so magnificently.

MCINTYRE: Thank you.

PETRAEUS: Sir, with respect to the local police, they have again taken on more and more and more. And interestingly, what is emerging as the poster child for this is Anbar province.

Fallujah, again, once one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq, now has no Iraqi army or Iraqi military in it. It has 10 police precincts, each of which is a gated community, essentially.

They have had a Marine squad per police precinct. They're gradually downsizing those, so we'll have probably one for every two for a while, and then gradually reduce those. And they are doing a creditable job.

There are always temptations in Iraq -- and there's something cultural about it, frankly, about ensuring that there is not corruption ongoing. And there is an effort -- they have, in fact, relieved police chiefs, in some cases detained police chiefs in Anbar, among other places, to make sure that they're not supplementing their income by illicit means.

Iraq is a country with enormous oil riches and other natural blessings. And, again, there has to be continued effort to make sure that local police don't succumb to the temptations, again, to try to get their hand into some of this.

MCINTYRE: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: Thank you.

Mr. Jones?

JONES: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.

And to the two gentlemen at the desk, thank you for your leadership, your patriotism to this great nation, and all the good things you're trying to do for America.

Ambassador Crocker, I want to ask you a question, but I don't want you to answer it right now, because I've got a second question, and you can combine them both.

How often do you have communications with the Iraqi governmental leadership, especially Prime Minister Maliki?

Second, to what Mr. (inaudible) was saying, the issue and the reasons -- which you have nothing to do but to protect the security of this nation, so this was not meant towards you, his bringing these figures up. The reason is that this country right now is borrowing money from foreign governments to pay our bills.

In the year 2001, a gallon of 87-octane gas cost $1.42. Today, it's $3.35. In addition, in 2001, a barrel of oil was $28. Today, it's over $100. And I'm not going on and on.

But the issue is that we in this Congress are going to be cutting programs to help our elderly with health care. So we do want to, as you're trying to do today, to give us, as you have done, the honest assessment of where everything is.

But the American people do support the troops, as we support the troops. The American people want to know that the Iraqi government understands that we do not have treasure and blood to go on and on and on.

And, Mr. Ambassador, the reason I bring this up is that a couple of your statements, as well as the general, were very, very -- you know, statements such as gains are fragile and reversible, cannot guarantee success, but we are closer, and we appreciate those statements.

But recently Prime Minister Maliki demanded al-Sadr disband his Mahdi Army and threaten to bar -- al-Sadr, excuse me -- followers from the political process if the cleric refused. And I'll quote: "A decision was taken yesterday that no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mahdi Army."

My question to you, because of the word "fragile," which I appreciate and you're being very honest, "fragile," do you have conversations with Maliki? Does he take you into discussion as it relates to political decisions that are going to be forthcoming? Because this is the question to you: If, by chance, that he will bar al-Sadr's group from the political process, what would be the results of that?

CROCKER: Congressman, General Petraeus and I see a great deal of the Iraqi political leadership. We met with Prime Minister Maliki, for example, I think just the day before we got on the plane to come back here.

And we also have extensive contacts with the other elements of the leadership. And we do in those contacts register our views. We consult. But at the same time, Prime Minister Maliki is the leader of a sovereign government. And as we saw in Basra, he will take his own decisions.

He did not extensively consult with us before that operation. We learned of it just a couple of days before he embarked on it.

With respect to the Jaish al-Mahdi, I'd point out that it's not just the prime minister. President Talabani, the Kurdish president of Iraq, yesterday also called on Muqtada al-Sadr to disband that militia and commit himself fully to the political process.

And, again, I think this is one of the really positive developments we have seen that I referred to earlier, a popular rejection of militia extremist, terrorist violence, both Sunni and Shia. And it is reflected not only in the prime minister's call, but in a position that spans the political spectrum.

And a statement issued last Saturday specifically called for the disbanding of militias. And that was a collective view of all the major political movements.

SKELTON: I thank the gentleman.

The gentlelady from California, Ms. Tauscher?

TAUSCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

General Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker, thank you for your service and to your families and for the people that you represent.

Gentlemen, over the last few weeks, some of the national polling, a CBS-New York Times poll have increasingly larger numbers of Americans saying, for example, looking back, do you think the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq or should the United States have stayed out? Sixty-two percent say stayed out.

Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Iraq? Sixty-six percent say oppose. All in all, do you think the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over or not? Sixty-two percent not worth it.

Now, both of you have stated in repeated testimony that our withdrawal from Iraq or redeployment from Iraq is going to be conditions-based. Apparently, that is a metric for Iraq. Those are not the only conditions that we have to look at.

We have to also look at the conditions here. My constituents in California repeatedly tell me that they don't believe that we can sustain the number of troops or the treasure that we are expending.

The American people, gentlemen, love their troops and appreciate their sacrifice, but they do not like this mission. And they want to know what is going to happen.

And we have an election coming forward in November, and that is going to be significantly about this. On January 21st of 2009, if you report to a commander-in-chief that says that they want to plan for the withdrawal of troops in the next 60 days, what will you advise them?

PETRAEUS: Well, what I would sit down, first, Congressman, is I'd try to back up and ask what the mission is. What are the objectives? What's the desired end state?

With an understanding of that mission, then you can state what resources are required...

TAUSCHER: General, if the mission is to maintain the security gains as best we have made during the surge, but to bring our troops home so that they can rest, re-train, and be redeployable, and we can fix our readiness problems, and cut the amount of money that we're spending in Iraq, which is $600 billion now going to well over $1 trillion in the future, what would your response be?

PETRAEUS: My response would be dialogue on what the risk would be, again. And this is about risk.

At the end of the day -- let me just state upfront I absolutely support the principle of civilian control of the military. We're not self-employed in uniform. We take orders, and we follow them.

But what we want to do, of course, is to have dialogue within the chain of command about what the mission is, what the desired end state is, the objectives, and so forth, then be able to provide the assessment of a commander on the ground of what we believe the resources are required, if they're less than that, you know, this is the risk to various elements.

And then it is up to other folks to determine where they want to take the risk. But, again, as I stated, I fully believe in, subscribe to, and have sworn an oath to the Constitution and the concept of civilian control of the military.

TAUSCHER: Ambassador Crocker, considering that we have a new president on January 20th, and that president could say that they want to have you give them an assessment, for example, on how we spread the risk, how we spread the risk away from the American people and our military, who in the region could step up, who around the world could step up to help stabilize the Iraq government and their security situation in lieu of our departure, what would you advise the president as to who could be available and how we would begin that engagement?

CROCKER: Well, again, Congresswoman, that's looking fairly far into the future. And I've learned to keep my timelines pretty short when I'm predicting things to do with Iraq.

CROCKER: I would anticipate it would be a briefing on the efforts that are under way. I described, for example, the efforts we have made to have the United Nations more actively engaged in Iraq -- they are -- our efforts with the international community more broadly.

Again, it's noteworthy, I think, that Sweden is hosting this upcoming ministerial on the International Compact with Iraq. It's the first time that a European state has stepped forward that was not a member of the coalition. So we're trying to broaden there.

And we have constant efforts under way in the region that, frankly, I wish had been a little more successful, but we'll keep at it. And I think what I would probably be doing is providing an update on these sorts of things.

TAUSCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: Mr. Hayes?

HAYES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And, gentlemen, thank you for being here. Please convey our gratitude and incredible appreciation of the men and women with whom you serve.

Three questions. Number one, the Anbar model is obviously working, it would appear, for a number of reasons, mainly because tribal leaders are working with elected leaders and our military officials to come up with a plan that cooperates and work, if you would comment on that.

Number two, elected leaders and tribal leaders are the ones that can provide this timeline that everybody talks about. What do you see happening? How do we precipitate, how do we cause that to happen so that the Iraqis say, "We're going to be ready by this date"? Immediately, then you can come up with a timeline that we need.

And last, in the south, very significant, the Basra situation. You have Iraqi Shia battling Iranian-influenced Shia who are Muqtada al-Sadr. How do we work that out? And if you'll just kind of explain the dynamic of that, because with Maliki taking on al-Sadr, that's pushing back on Iran, and people need to know about that.

And last comment. David Walker sat where you're sitting and said the benchmarks we have for Iraq are not the right ones, so the benchmarks of Iraqis spending money of their own on us helping to fight the war against the terrorists is very significant in the benchmark area.

Thank you.

PETRAEUS: Congressman, if I could take the first and third, and the ambassador will take the second and the fourth.

The Anbar model is a model that we have tried to apply elsewhere. It's a model that certainly works in an area that is almost exclusively Sunni Arab, with substantial tribal influence, and an area in which Al Qaida very clearly overplayed its hand, where, again, the population was devastated by what Al Qaida did to them, in terms of violence, in terms of these oppressive practices that they implemented, not to mention the ideology to which they subscribe, to which the people of the Euphrates River Valley really didn't embrace.

There were reasons why they were willing to support Al Qaida, having to do with a variety of actions early on, feelings of dispossession, disrespect and the like. But over time, they came to realize what Al Qaida had done to their river valley, done to business, had done to basic services, and so forth, chose to reject it.

And because, again, of the relative cohesion of the population and the tribal structures, we're able to use that and they were able to use it to cobble together a fairly coherent response to Al Qaida.

We are applying that where we can. Again, the circumstances there are fairly unique, so you have to adapt it to each area. And when you have a place where there are sectarian or ethnic differences, say, in Diyala province or Nineveh, it's a bit more sensitive and you've got to be a little bit more skillful in your application, perhaps, or just different in your application, because those in Anbar demonstrated enormous skill.

With respect to Basra, again, as the ambassador mentioned earlier, this is, in our view, truly a decision by a prime minister to take on elements that were very much threatening the peace, rule of law, good order and so forth in Basra that were carrying out acts of intimidation, included murder and so forth, and not just -- it wasn't a purely politically inspired activity.

It does happen that some of the most lethal elements associated with that militia, the so-called special groups, are, in fact, backed by Iran, were trained, equipped and funded by them.

So, again, this is a fairly courageous decision. It was a fairly sudden decision. It was one that came after some months of preparing a more deliberate approach and is still very much playing out.

It is far too soon to say that Basra has succeeded or has failed, either. It is safe to say that Basra is going to continue for months, actually, and that it is a tough nut to crack, but the fact is that the prime minister has taken it on and his forces are grappling with that particular issue.

CROCKER: On the role of elected and tribal leaders, Iraqis, both Iraqi leaders and the Iraqi population at large, you know, want to be in a position of taking charge of their own country and their own security. It's not a situation in which they're really all saying, "Well, let the Americans do it."

And, again, the Basra operation reflects that sentiment, that they should be able to do things for themselves. So I think clearly Iraqis are moving in that direction. But just as we look at conditions rather than timelines, so do thoughtful Iraqis.

One thing that will be important are the provincial elections, because you mentioned tribal and elected leaders. Many tribal leaders and their followers sat out the last election and are therefore not represented in government.

They are not going to make that mistake this time. They've been very clear on that. So these elections are going to be important to kind of recalibrate through the voting booth who Iraq's leaders are at the provincial level.

With regard to the benchmarks, the benchmarks have importance. We track them. And as I undertook to Congressman McIntyre, we'll provide our assessment of where they are.

But what they don't do -- and as your suggestion implies -- they simply don't tell the whole story. And it is important to focus on a number of other things.

A key element is that which you mentioned, the ability of Iraq to spend its own funds on its own reconciliation and development. And we place a very high emphasis on that, even though it's not a benchmark.

SKELTON: I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Andrews from New Jersey?

ANDREWS: I thank the chairman.

I thank the witnesses for their service to our country. And please thank the people you represent, as well. We're very grateful.

Ambassador Crocker, the words I hear talk about transition to Iraqis running Iraq, but the substance I see looks more to me like an indefinite American occupation of Iraq. I want to ask you some questions about that.

A significant, though not exclusive source of the hostilities in Iraq are Sunni resisters who do not want to live in a country that's 61 percent Shiite. And Iraq is a country where who controls the guns and the money and the power is going to be very, very important.

When you were here in September, the essential argument you made to the American people was that General Petraeus and his forces would do their very best to tamp down the violence, and they have, and we thank them for that, and that the Iraqi politicians would then take advantage of that hiatus and do the best they could to reach political reconciliation. They have not. It is correct -- let's first talk about sharing of power with the provinces, particularly those that are majority Sunni. There have not been provincial elections yet, have there?

CROCKER: There have been provincial elections, one round, in which many Sunnis boycotted. The next elections will be this fall.

ANDREWS: But there have not been meaningful provincial elections which have vested real power in provincial governments. Would you agree with that?

CROCKER: Well, actually, Congressman, the provincial governments do have significant power, and that's now been codified in the provincial powers law that was just passed by the parliament.

The most important power they have is the access to resources. All the provinces...

ANDREWS: Let's talk about resources. At this point in time, the most important economic resource in Iraq is oil revenues. The Iraqi parliament has not passed a hydrocarbon law since September, has it?

CROCKER: No, it has not.

ANDREWS: And, finally, a very important thing is control of the military and the Interior Ministry, the police. Now, there was a de- Baathification law passed by the Iraqi parliament enacted into law, but it's my understanding that the terms of that statute say that former members of the Baathist Party may not work in the military and may not work in the Interior Ministry. Is that correct?

CROCKER: That the most senior levels of the Baath Party...

ANDREWS: Well, but aren't the people at the most senior levels that one who's participation in political negotiations is most important?

CROCKER: As I said in my testimony, Congressman, the implementation of these laws, this one, as well as the others, is going to be of key importance.

I would note, though -- and we're still awaiting that -- but I would note that these laws were passed in a new spirit of reconciliation that we would expect to see, also, inform the implementation phase.

ANDREWS: I do understand that. I do understand that there is some discussion of a new spirit of reconciliation.

But the argument that was made by you in September was that a reduction in violence would create the opportunity for a period of real political reconciliation and that was the rationale of the so- called surge.

Now, the record shows that there was a de-Baathification law, but, as you just said, key members of the party, former members of the party, can't work in the Defense or Interior Ministry, which means they have no access to the guns. There have been some provincial statutes passed, but the meaningful elections, by my judgment, have not occurred, and we hear they'll occur by October 1st. We've heard that for a very long time.

And perhaps the most important thing, which is the money, the hydrocarbon law has not been passed.

Now, I'm not meaning to say here that doing all those things since September is a mark of abject failure, but, my goodness, not doing them since April of 2003 sure looks like -- you know, the world didn't begin in September. As far as the American people are concerned, it was April of 2003 when Saddam fell, when the forces which General Petraeus participated in did such a great job of making that happen.

It is now five years. No hydrocarbon law, no meaningful distribution of the provinces, no de-Baathification law. Why should the American people wait five more minutes for that to happen?

CROCKER: Congressman, while there is no hydrocarbon law and revenue-sharing law, in fact, revenues are being shared to the provinces. And this process is ongoing. It is seen as equitable, both in predominantly Sunni and predominantly Shia provinces.

The provinces have resources because the oil revenues, in fact, are being shared. And that, I think, is the important indicator.

You talk about Sunni resisters not wanting to be part of a Shia majority country. Well, in fact, as we have seen in Anbar, in Baghdad and elsewhere, the Sunnis have decided they don't want to have anything to do with Al Qaida and its supporters. They took a very courageous stand against them. And that actually triggered a broader reconciliation process.

ANDREWS: Well, my time is expired. I'll just quickly say that not having anything to do with Al Qaida is one thing. Wanting to have something to do with the new government is quite another.

SKELTON: I thank the gentleman.

The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Forbes?

FORBES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

General, Ambassador, thank you so much for being here. And the question I'm going to ask you, you might not be able to answer. I just haven't found who could articulate this answer best, so I'm going to try it on the two of you.

And let me set it up by saying how much I appreciate what both of you do. The chairman and I had the privilege of spending Christmas Eve with both of you in Iraq this year. We thank you for that opportunity.

I know, General, you mentioned yesterday you thought your men and women that were serving there were America's newest greatest generation, and that's certainly true.

And to all the people we talked to, not one exception, they believed in what you're doing and the mission that was there.

I get frustrated sometimes, too, when I see charts coming up that suggest $1 trillion over the next 10 years, but then I don't see a chart that talks about the fact that just from the deficits we'll have on Social Security and Medicare it will be 53 times that amount.

We talk about borrowing money. We just borrowed $168 billion to give to people to help feel good about the economy.

FORBES: And all of that, though, we can put in a bag, shake it up, and put it on a shelf, I want to cut to the chase on this.

When I'm traveling around, I'm looking at average homemaker, factory worker, salesman, children, and they're looking and they're saying some of what you've heard today. "We're having to spend $3 and something for a gallon of gas. We have to make a tough choice. We have to spend X number of dollars for a gallon of milk. That's a tough choice."

And the question they're trying to grapple with inside is how come it's worth $608 billion for them and their family to spend in Iraq for safety and security.

And, General, I want to preface it by -- yesterday, I think your response to Senator Warner was, when he asked you were we safer in America because we were in Iraq, and you said yes -- the resulting question, though, I want to also ask.

If we prematurely pull out of Iraq, are we less safe in America? And when we talk about things like we just mentioned earlier -- enormous national interest, Al Qaida strengthening in Iraq, sectarian violence in Iraq -- all those things to people, they say, "That's wonderful. We support them. But is it worth $608 billion to us?"

How do we answer the housewife, factory worker, whatever and say, "This is why it's important to you that we spend this money and do this fight?"

PETRAEUS: Well, again, I think that what happens in Iraq has ripple effects that certainly will ripple all the way right into the United States. If there is a disruption to the oil flow, just as an example -- which is, by the way, flowing quite well out of Iraq, and they've exceeded their goals for oil export on top of, of course, what they're getting paid for it -- but would find an even higher price at the gas tank.

If there are, again -- if there's widespread regional instability and all the rest of that, again, the repercussions eventually will be felt in the United States.

More immediately, of course, is the impact of Al Qaida being able to establish a base there from which it could then project, train and possibly equip terrorists that -- again, eventually, that all obviously has an impact, as it has in the past, on the United States and on our own citizens. So as I've stated here this morning and said yesterday before the committees, we have an enormous interest in doing all that we can to get this right. It is of huge importance to our country.

FORBES: Thank you.

CROCKER: And I would just add to that, Congressman, you know, I was in Lebanon in the early 1980s, and when we withdrew our Marines from Lebanon in early 1984 after the Marine barracks bombing in October of 1983, countries in the region made some judgments about what the United States was willing to do.

Iran and Syria in particular made some judgments, and those judgments, which I think were incorrect judgments, continue to inform their actions today, over a quarter of a century later.

Were we to take the decision to disengage from Iraq without regard to the conditions and the consequences, the region and, indeed, the world would also come to conclusions about the will of the United States that I think would have some very grave consequences, not just in Iraq but for U.S. interests more broadly.

FORBES: Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: Thank you.

We will have to close this hearing at 12:30 for the staff to prepare for the 1 o'clock hearing that we have scheduled. And we'll do our best to get as many in as we can between now and then.

General, we thank you for your patience with us.

Ms. Davis?

S. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And thank you to you, General and Mr. Ambassador and, really, to all the men and women who are sacrificing along with you today.

I wanted to just ask you for a minute about the status of forces agreement.

And, Mr. Ambassador, you referenced that in your remarks, and I know also at the Senate hearing yesterday it was mentioned -- and that the Iraqi parliament would have an opportunity to vote, as I understand it, on the status of forces agreement negotiated by the executive branch and the government of Iraq while the United States Congress would not.

That strikes people in our districts as strange. And I wonder if you could please comment on that, why we would not have a say in that as being proposed.

I wonder if you could also talk about how it's being used as leverage in moving us to the outcomes that we're looking to and moving our troops out of Iraq.

CROCKER: It's our intention to negotiate the status of forces agreement basically as we have done with some 80 other similar agreements with different countries.

Each one of those agreements has both its unique aspects and also broadly similar stipulations as well that are shared among the agreements.

This one will have, as its unique aspects, the authorities and the protections that our forces would need to continue operations after the end of the year. But it is our intention that this will be negotiated as an executive agreement, as all the other SOFAs are.

We've had only one SOFA, and that is with NATO, that has risen to the level of requiring Senate advice and consent, because it does have explicit security commitments in it.

We do not intend for this status of forces agreement to rise to that level, so it will not trigger the treaty ratification process.

Iraq has its own system. And I would say that at this point, it is not clear exactly how that will play out, whether this agreement would actually go to the council of representatives for a vote or whether it would simply be read to the council of representatives.

But we will handle this, certainly, within the context of our own system.

S. DAVIS: Do you see that this is -- is this a vehicle for leverage that would actually bring about a result that would not occur if it were not for the agreement? Can you think of an instance in which that's true? And are we using that leverage appropriately?

CROCKER: I'm sorry, ma'am. Could you repeat that?

S. DAVIS: I'm interested in knowing how we would use that status of force agreement for leverage that some Iraqi actions that have to take place in order for us to move forward with that kind of an agreement that would provide the kind of security that they're looking for.

CROCKER: Well, I think, like other agreements, this is a question of mutual interest. We both have interests in this process in ensuring that our forces do have the authorities after the expiration of the Security Council resolution to continue operations.

So it's not a question, I think, so much of having something to give to them that we should expect payment, as it were, for. I think it is simply moving our relations to a more normal level while still ensuring that we've got the authorities we need.

I think that's the benefit in it for us.

S. DAVIS: Well, I think that people would look at this -- and perhaps it's another way of explaining it, but this is a unique situation that we're in, and I think that the public believes that there is some role that we should be playing to at least be a greater part of the -- on consultation on that agreement.

Just very quickly, going back to the Awakening Council, because I think that we've had an opportunity to look at that as a very positive force and, you know, you can interpret it that way.

But I think others are concerned that the 80 percent or so of individuals that are not going to be included in either the army or the police -- that that perhaps marriage of convenience that's occurred is going to shift back, and that we're not developing the kind of strategic security there that we need. Is that of great concern to you?

CROCKER: Actually, Congresswoman, we've had that discussion with the prime minister and other senior officials. Twenty to 30 percent, as you say, should be integrated into the security forces.

The prime minister is committed to ensuring that the remainder receive employment in the civilian sector. He is committed to job training programs and employment opportunities.

So the intention is that over time all of these individuals will be receiving gainful employment, just not all of them in the security field.

S. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SKELTON: I thank the gentlelady.

Mr. Wilson?

WILSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And, General, Ambassador, thank you very much for your service. It's with heartfelt thanks that I have for our service members and the civilians who are serving in Iraq and the region, protecting American families.

I say this as a veteran of 31 years in the Army Guard, as the parent of four sons who serve in the military, and as a grandparent. And I'm particularly grateful -- my oldest son served for a year in Iraq. I'm so grateful for him.

This weekend, he and his wife Jennifer will have their first son. Michael Allen McCorry (ph) will be born this weekend.

Additionally, when I visited with you last month, I had the privilege of visiting with my son, who's a doctor in the Navy. And he arrived back home with his three children under five on Easter evening. And so it's been an extraordinary time for our family.

Our family understands the best way to protect American families is to defeat the terrorists overseas. The best way to win the war is to have victory and not bring the war home. And so I really appreciate, again, what you're doing. I believe the enemy have a clear plan, and I really refer -- Zawahiri, the Al Qaida spokesman for Osama bin Laden, on July the 9th, 2005, came up with the plan.

The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq. The second stage: Establish authority in Iraq. The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.

That would mean Saudi Arabia. It would mean Turkey. It would mean Egypt. It would be the Persian Gulf states of Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, UAE, Dubai.

And then fourth stage: The clash with Israel -- that is, the extermination of the people of Israel.

Now, if Al Qaida achieves their goals, it's my view that they would -- after the extermination of the people of Israel, after the conquest of the region, will they attack America again, or will they be satisfied with the fruits of what they have stolen?

CROCKER: Congressman, that's exactly why a base in Iraq is so important to Al Qaida, to be, as I said, and as you've just quoted from Zawahiri, a base in the Arab world, the reestablishment of the caliphate, according to their ideology, is an essential goal.

You know, I've spent a lot of time thinking about Al Qaida. I was in Pakistan for 2.5 years. That's where I first had the pleasure of meeting you. It's my judgment that Al Qaida will seek the space and find the opportunity to strike again at us if they possibly can.

So while I would not disagree with Zawahiri's analysis, I would not be confident that Al Qaida would take it in phases. I think once they have -- if they can get a secure base, I would assume that they're going to use that to plan attacks in different spheres.

They may not go from A to B to C to a strike at us. We could come right after A. And that's why it is so essential to see that they do not reestablish themselves in Iraq.

WILSON: Additionally, a statement I'd like to make is that we have a radio talk show host at home who is extremely articulate. He's very supportive of you, General Petraeus, of you, Ambassador Crocker. His name is Kevin Cohen.

And he has stated that every day that there's not an attack on the United States is a day of success. And so I want to thank you for the days -- years -- of success that we've had. And I believe it's because of the commitment of the American men and women, military and civilian, who have put their lives on the line.

WILSON: I have visited in the region 10 times now. Every time I go, I am so encouraged by the young people I meet who, of all ranks, who are very supportive of our efforts to protect American families by defeating the terrorists overseas.

And I just want to thank you so much for what both of you and your personnel have done for our country. God bless you.

CROCKER: Thank you, sir.

SKELTON: Thank you very much.

We will have to close our hearing out. We will begin the 1 o'clock hearing with Mr. Marshall and proceed from there on with those that did not have the opportunity to ask questions at this hearing.

Gentlemen, we thank you for your testimony. We thank you for your service. We appreciate it. And we appreciate your leadership of those fine young people that serve under you.

Thank you again.

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