The General still thinks things are going well in Iraq. Or he must say or lose his job. Read Petraeus' testimony:
Since Ambassador Crocker and I appeared before you seven months ago, there has been significant but uneven security progress in Iraq. Since September, 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 and as I have repeatedly cautioned, the progress made since last spring is fragile and reversible. Still, security in Iraq is better than it was when Ambassador Crocker and I 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 US forces to Iraq.
Then read the General's answers to the 3 presidential candidates:
SENATOR MCCAIN: News reports indicate that over a thousand Iraqi army and police deserted or underperformed during that operation. This is four months after Basra achieved provincial Iraqi control, meaning that all provincial security had been transferred to Iraqi security forces. What's the lesson that we're to draw from that, that a thousand Iraqi army and police deserted or underperformed?
SENATOR MCCAIN: Well, one lesson, Senator, is that relatively new forces -- what happened was in one case a brigade that literally had just come out of unit set fielding was pressed into operation.
The other lesson is a recurring one, and that is the difficulty of local police operating in areas where there is serious intimidation of themselves and of their families.
SENATOR MCCAIN: Suffice to say, it was a disappointment.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: It was, although it is not over yet, Senator. In fact, subsequent to the early days, they then took control of the security at the different ports. They continued to carry out targeted raids. The operation is still very much ongoing and it is by no means over.
SENATOR MCCAIN: The Green Zone has been attacked in ways that it has not been for a long time, and most of that is coming from elements that leave Sadr City or from Sadr City itself. Is that correct?
GENERAL PETRAEUS: That's correct, Senator.
SENATOR MCCAIN: And what are we going to do about that?
GENERAL PETRAEUS: Well, we have already taken control of the area that was the principal launching point for a number of the 107- millimeter rockets into Baghdad and have secured that area. Beyond that -- again, Iraqi security forces are going to have to come to grips both politically as well as militarily with the issue of the militia and more importantly the special groups.
Barack Obama had some questions:
With respect to Al Qaida in Iraq, it's already been noted they were not there before we went in, but they certainly were there last year and they continue to have a presence there now.
Should we be successful in Mosul, should you continue, General, with the effective operations that you've been engaged in, assuming that in that narrow military effort we are successful, do we anticipate that there ever comes a time where Al Qaida in Iraq could not reconstitute itself?
GENERAL PETRAEUS: Well, I think the question, Senator, is whether Iraqi security forces over time, with much less help, could deal with their efforts to reconstitute. I think it's...
SENATOR OBAMA: That's my point.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: I think it's a given that Al Qaida-Iraq will try to reconstitute just as any movement of that type does try to reconstitute. And the question is whether...
SENATOR OBAMA:I don't mean -- don't mean to interrupt you, but I just want to sharpen the question so that -- because I think you're getting right at my point here.
I mean, if one of our criteria for success is ensuring that Al Qaida does not have a base of operations in Iraq, I just want to harden a little bit the metrics by which we're measuring that.
At what point do we say they cannot reconstitute themselves or are we saying that they're not going to be particularly effective and the Iraqis, themselves, will be able to handle the situation?