General Petraeus: 30,000 troops may be able to leave Iraq by next summer

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Monday, September 10, 2007

U.S. Army General David H. Petraeus, briefing reporters at the Pentagon in 2006.
Image: Robert D. Ward/Department of Defense..

Today on Capitol Hill, U.S. Army General David Petraeus presented a long awaited testimony. The number one U.S. commander in Iraq said 30,000 United States troops may be able to leave Iraq by the summer of 2008. The top U.S. diplomat in Iraq, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, also joined General Petraeus in the presentation to Congress.

General Petraeus firstly said that the President's troop escalation in January met its objectives "in large measure."

Petraeus said, "I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level ... by next summer without jeopardizing the security gains we have fought so hard to achieve."

However, Petraeus would not speak about troop withdrawals past the summer of 2008 until March, saying, "Our experience in Iraq has repeatedly shown that projecting too far into the future is not just difficult, it can be misleading and even hazardous."

The General recommends the government withdraw a Marine expeditionary team by the end of September 2007, and a brigade combat unit in December of 2007. Petraeus also recommended, "reduction of eight further brigade teams and the battalion combats in 2008 until we reach the pre-surge levels of 15 brigade combat teams by mid-July 2008."

Petraeus presented Congress with a number of charts and graphs showing a decline in violence overall in Iraq. "The level of security incidents has declined in eight of the past 12 weeks, with the level of incidents in the past two weeks the lowest since June of 2006," Petraeus testified.

Ambassador Crocker said that while he "cannot guarantee success" in Iraq, withdrawing completely now would result in failure.

President Bush reportedly will use Petraeus and Crocker's recommendations as a base for his report to Congress.

A senior administration official said it is "very likely" that President will speak in a prime-time address this week.