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9 Sep, 2007 07:01

U.S. commander in Iraq faces even bigger battle in Congress

The commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has said he wants to continue the troop build-up there until next spring. On Monday, he will deliver to the U.S. Congress his much anticipated assessment on the progress in Iraq since the intro

Russia Today’s military analyst Evgeny Khrushchev presented his view of the story.

Since July’s Iraq interim progress report, President Bush has appealed to the opponents of his surge strategy, to hold their breath till the September report.

“General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell me if the kind of success we are now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces,” Mr Bush said.

The moment of truth is about to come as Commander General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker face the music on Capitol Hill.

Indeed, it will be an uphill battle rather than a cake walk.

For the U.S. Commander in Iraq, this is the most formidable challenge in his impeccable career as the only three-star general paratrooper with a PhD degree.

“Enclosing the situation in Iraq is dire, the stakes are high. There are no easy choices. The way ahead will be very hard. But ‘hard’ is not ‘hopeless’,” General Petraeus stressed.

His mission is nigh on impossible: to reconcile White House hot heads with Congress cold minds on the U.S. post-surge strategy in Iraq.

As the top boot on the ground,  he has to marshal all his intimate knowledge and hands-on experience in counterinsurgency to sell his much touted Iraqi case.

“None of this will be rapid. In fact the way ahead will be neither quick nor easy and there undoubtedly will be tough days,” the commander highlighted.

Petraeus has enough wisdom to understand what he can do, and what he can't.

He cannot reconcile the Commander-in-Chief’s state of denial with the grim realities in Iraq, or ask for half a million GIs and 10 years to pacify Iraq.

What the general can do is to turn the defence of hopeless U.S. policy in Iraq into a charm offence to facilitate a face saving solution in Congress.

True, ‘there’s no silver bullet’ for success in Iraq as Condoleezza Rice used to say.

To pull it off, the commander may repackage with some sugar-coating the strategic stalemate into a tactical victory – to reconsider U.S. policy options in Iraq.

His magic formula for success is a brainchild of his counterinsurgency doctrine. Low-profile, light footprint, incremental redeployment – without a pullout deadline.

Petraeus needs to cash in on U.S. military momentum in Iraq before the breathing space for reconciliation will be squandered by dysfunctional tribal democracy.
“You do not want to loose the momentum but certainly 160,000, plus say 5,000, could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas,” Senator John Warner sated.
There’s strong circumstantial evidence that General Petraeus will accomplish his mission. To shift the strategy from ‘going big’ to ‘going long’, and putting ‘going home’ on the backburner could be the best and the only viable post-surge option in the offing.