Petraeus and Crocker: Past Remarks on Iraq
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, are set to deliver their much-anticipated assessment of progress in Iraq since the beginning of the U.S. troop "surge" there, which President Bush ordered last winter.
The two men will deliver their report to Congress in testimony beginning Monday. And while much has already been reported about what they are expected to say, no one knows for sure.
What is known is their prior comments on the situation in Iraq and the goal of U.S. military policy there. Here, a sampling of those remarks, culled from recent statements and past interviews with Petraeus and Crocker since they assumed their positions earlier this year:
Gen. David Petraeus
Petraeus has long stressed the complexity of the situation in Iraq, while citing evidence of progress in the conflict: the tamping down of insurgent violence in certain areas, for example. Those sentiments were repeated in a letter he sent to troops under his command on Friday.
The letter provides a preview of the general's thinking ahead of his testimony before Congress. In it, he summarizes the results of the troop buildup which President Bush ordered last January. Petraeus praised the troops, while citing the sectarian rivalries, "limited Iraqi government capacity" and corruption that make their mission in Iraq "exceedingly complex."
The troop "surge" was meant to contain insurgent violence and stabilize Iraq long enough to allow political reconciliation to take hold. Petraeus has called the rehabilitation of the Iraqi political process a key measure of the strategy's success. But in Friday's letter, he acknowledged that progress in this arena "has not worked out as we had hoped."
However, Petraeus also cited military gains in recent months: "In fact, the number of attacks across the country has declined in eight of the past 11 weeks, reaching during the last week in August a level not seen since June 2006."
Recent reports have suggested that Petraeus plans to call for keeping the "surge" going through early spring and summer, with a modest reduction of some 4,000 troops beginning early next year. In an e-mail to the Boston Globe, also on Friday, the general said he expects that some troops scheduled to return home in the spring of 2008 could leave Iraq without replacements.
Listen to some of Petraeus' past remarks to NPR:
Petraeus speaks with Michele Norris on All Things Considered, July 19, 2007:
On Judging the 'Surge' Strategy: 'This is a case of ... feeling we have a degree of momentum'
On His Report with Crocker: 'The ambassador and I will provide as comprehensive and forthright an assessment as we can'
On Ending the Surge: 'We see no extension beyond 15 months for any forces on the ground'
On the Greatest Threat to Success in Iraq: 'Sectarian fault lines' in Iraqi neighborhoods
Ambassador Ryan Crocker
Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has said that the country, its institutions and its communities have been seriously damaged by sectarian strife and that he does not see an "end game" in sight in Iraq. But recently, he has also delivered optimistic assessments of political progress there.
In a Sept. 4 interview, Crocker told CBS' Katie Couric: "While there are any number of problems of challenges out there ... I think we also have to acknowledge when things are moving in the right direction, and I think we can point to signs in both the national and the local levels."
He added: "I think we're getting to a stage now, thanks to the success of the surge operation, where not only is political reconciliation a possibility in a much calmer climate, but you've got a climate in which it is going to be far more feasible for the government to actually deliver services, and it couldn't do that before."
While acknowledging that Americans are growing restless with the U.S. mission in Iraq, Crocker said that "there is reason to expect that the country will be able to pull itself together. I think if they see that, Americans are going to be patient."
Crocker insisted that "Iraq can succeed," but he also repeated a warning he has oft-made: "I cannot give guarantees about anything, except to say that if we decide we are tired of doing this, if we make that decision, I am absolutely confident that Iraq will fail."
Listen to some of Crocker's past remarks to NPR:
Crocker speaks with Renee Montagne on Morning Edition, June 6, 2007: