[QODLink]
Americas
Petraeus urges halt to Iraq pullout
Senior US commander in Iraq calls for suspension of troop drawdown after July.
Last Modified: 09 Apr 2008 10:19 GMT
Deadly fighting has continued in Iraq despite the
so-called troop surge [GALLO/GETTY]
The senior US commander in Iraq has called for a suspension in troop withdrawals from the country after July in order to assess last year's so-called troop "surge".
 
Testifying before the US congress, General David Petraeus warned on Tuesday that "significant" military gains from the so-called surge were "fragile and reversible".
He told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the current withdrawal of five combat brigades should continue before a 45-day "consolidation and evaluation" period is taken.
 
Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, also testified at the hearing, part of a two-day congressional session on Iraq.
Proceedings were interrupted on several occasions by heckling from anti-war protesters, one of whom shouted "bring them home", referring to US troops, before being escorted from the room.
 
Criticism of Iran
 
Petraeus said that after the 45-day period the US would "commence a process of assessment to examine the conditions on the ground and, over time, determine when we can make recommendations for further reductions".
 
Your Views

How effective has the US military "surge" in Iraq been?

Send us your views

The current drawdown would reduce troop levels from about 158,000 to 140,000.
 
The general also continued to criticise Iraq's neighbour, Iran, for supporting and training Shia fighters in Iraq through cells the US army describes as "special groups".
 
"Unchecked, the special groups pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq," Petraeus said.
 
Recent violence in Iraq between Shia militias and Iraqi security forces has left hundreds of people dead, while on Tuesday Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia leader of the al-Mahdi army, threatened to lift a ceasefire he put in place last August.
 
At least nine US soldiers have been killed in Iraq since Sunday.
 
Petraeus criticised the recent Iraqi operation against Shia militias in the southern city of Basra as "not adequately planned or prepared".
 
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said Petraeus had in effect been allowed to judge his own progress on the situation in Iraq.
 
In video


Roadside bombs still worst threat to US in Iraq

Meanwhile, Crocker said that the US is negotiating a long-term agreement with Iraq that would give a legal framework for American troops to remain in the country.
 
The move has sparked criticism from some Democrats who say it would shift the burden of the war on to the next US administration.
 
But Crocker said "the agreement will not specify troop levels, and it will not tie the hands of the next administration".
 
"[The next US president] arrives in office with a stable foundation upon which to base policy decisions."
 
Democratic anger
 
The recent spike in violence in Iraq has also thrust Iraq to the forefront of campaigns for the US presidential election in November. 

The White House and members of the Republican party say the "surge" has successfully lowered violence and argue a pause in troop withdrawals to previous levels provides the means to assess the results of the reinforcements.

Hillary Clinton, right, said before the hearing
that the "surge" had clearly not worked [AFP]
John McCain, the likely Republican candidate, told the Senate Armed Services Committee before Petraeus's testimony on Tuesday that "much needed to be done" but said it was possible to "talk with real hope and optimism about the future of Iraq and the outcome of our efforts there".

However, Democrats criticised Petraeus's plan to halt withdrawals, saying the "surge" had not yielded sufficient political progress in Iraq and no end to the conflict was foreseeable.
 
Both Democratic presidential hopefuls, who were present at Petraeus's testimony, said the current Iraq strategy was not working, with Hillary Clinton telling the general that it was time to withdraw US troops, saying the situation in Iraq remained tenuous.
 
"It might well be irresponsible to continue the policy that has not produced the results that have been promised time and time again," she said.
 
Barack Obama said the US needed to talk to Iran to help stabilise the situation in Iraq.
 
"I do not believe we are going to be able to stabilise the situation without that," said Obama, adding that a plan for US troop withdrawals was needed to force Iraqi politicians to work together.
"I think that increased pressure in a measured way ... includes a timetable for withdrawal. Nobody is asking for a precipitous withdrawal."
Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
More than fifty years of an armed struggle for independence from Spain might be coming to an end in the Basque Country.
After the shooting-down of flight MH17, relatives ask what the carrier has learned from still-missing MH370.
Human rights and corporate responsibility prompt a US church to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
Afghan militias have accumulated a lengthy record of human-rights abuses, including murders and rapes.
Growing poverty is strengthening a trend among UK Muslims to fund charitable work closer to home.
join our mailing list