Saturday, August 11, 2007

Petraeus hints at decade-long Iraq presence

Gen. David Petraeus told a congressional delegation visiting the Middle East that success in Iraq will require a U.S. military presence there for about a decade, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said Friday.

The commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, who will deliver a highly anticipated progress report next month, said the U.S. “will be in Iraq in some way for 9 or 10 years,” according to Schakowsky. The general also highlighted progress in Anbar province, where former Sunni insurgents have turned against Al Qaeda extremists in recent months.

"It was pretty upbeat from his point of view,” Schakowsky said. “He said he wanted to be frank and honest. But still we would have to be there for some time -- for a long time.”The lawmaker added that she believes that the American public would “not tolerate” such a continued presence in Iraq.

A co-founder of the House Out of Iraq Caucus, Schakowsky chaired a bipartisan delegation of six Representatives that traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The visit included lunch in Baghdad with Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.The delegation also included Reps. Tom Allen (D-Maine), Thelma Drake (R-Va.), Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.).

Schakowsky said she came away from the trip convinced that the United States was fighting the wrong war, calling Iraq “a huge distraction from the real war on terror” in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Because of our engagement in Iraq we can’t afford to give [fighting al Qaeda leaders and a resurgent Taliban] the kind of attention that we need to,” she said. “We know what the mission is there.”

Schakowsky also described a meeting with an Iraqi deputy prime minister in which the official said that the kind of reconciliation necessary in Iraq will not be done by the time the report is due or even by September of 2008.

Other representatives reached different conclusions from the visit, as Republicans point to signs of military progress while asking for more patience regarding Iraq’s political situation. Both sides are bracing for what will likely be a sharply partisan debate when Petraeus presents his report in September.

“I continue to be optimistic about the future, continue to feel great pride in what our military has been able to accomplish,” Miller said. “We need to finish the job, allow the Iraqi government to stand up their own government and help them believe in themselves.”

“We’re going to have a different view, no question,” Schakowsky said. “It will break down on partisan lines.”

LSB: Break down along partisan lines? That's so hard to imagine! So, ten more years... still think the story below about the draft won't happen? If we continue to elect the Republican war machine it will. Those still supporting Mr. Bush's war will have to institute a draft, as the pool of volunteers will dry up or become so expensive that the war - and only the war - will be the only thing funded by the Congress.

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