Talking over the gameplan
General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, America’s top two officials in Iraq, returned to the Capitol today for a second straight day of Congressional hearings. Appearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Petraeus and Crocker faced skeptics from both parties as they had yesterday in the Senate. Committee chair Ike Skelton (D-MO) captured the tenor of the Democratic leadership when he complained that “political reconciliation hasn’t happened, and violence has leveled off and may be creeping back up.”
The most insightful moment of the hearings occurred when Petraeus said that he is unlikely to call for another troop buildup in Iraq, even if security worsens after fifteen brigades of troops return home this summer. His decision reflects the strain undertaken by the Army since deployments were extended from twelve to fifteen months last year; earlier this year officials made plans to reduce deployments to their original level by the end of the summer. “We think it makes sense to have some time to let the dust settle” before changing the deployment of troops, he said, noting that he “was keenly aware” of the troop strain, having been deployed himself since 2001.
In other Iraq news: Unable to secure enough votes to withdraw troops, Congressional Democrats plan to introduce legislation that would mandate the Iraqi government uses its projected boom in oil revenues to help pay for the rebuilding of their country. Revenues from 2007 to the end of 2008 are expected to reach $100 billion; the United States has spent $500 billion since on the war so far.