Thu, Sep 13, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Petraeus grilled over strategy in Iraq

PIVOTAL While the general said he didn't know whether his recommendations would make the US safer, Bush is today expected to announce a cut of 30,000 `surge' forces


Anger is also rising over the human and material cost of the war, with more than 3,700 US soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis killed since March 2003 and half a trillion dollars spent.

Sixty-one percent of nearly 2,700 US adults surveyed online last month by the Harris Poll group said they felt Bush was "too eager" when he sent US troops into Iraq in March 2003, while two-thirds gave Bush bad marks for his handling of the conflict over the past few months.

According to another poll by ABC News and the Washington Post, 55 percent want to see troops come home by next spring.

If Bush does not replace the 30,000 extra troops currently in Iraq as part of the "surge," he will not actually be reducing troop levels but only restoring them to the same level as this year's numbers.

The Washington Post yesterday cited unnamed White House aides as saying that Bush planned to emphasize that he was able to order troop cuts only because of the success achieved on the ground in Iraq, and that he was not being swayed by political opposition.

Bush has shown no inclination to order drastic cuts in the 168,000 US forces now in Iraq that Democrats have sought.

"It sounds to me as if General Petraeus is presenting a plan for at least a 10-year, high-level US presence in Iraq," House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after a White House meeting with Bush and other congressional leaders.

The California Democrat said she told Bush he should explain to US citizens "why our country should have to continue to make that commitment."

Crocker noted an effort by Maliki and other leaders to work out some national issues, including an announcement last month of agreement in principle on establishing provincial powers and on relaxing a ban on former members of the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's Baath party from public service.

"These are modest achievements but I nonetheless find them somewhat encouraging," he said.

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