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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: SIDES IN THE DEBATE

'I believe that it is possible to achieve our objectives'

September 11, 2007

Excerpts from Gen. David H. Petraeus' testimony to Congress:

Although I have briefed my assessment and recommendations to my chain of command, I wrote this testimony myself. It has not been cleared by, nor shared with, anyone in the Pentagon, the White House or Congress. . . .

While noting that the situation in Iraq remains complex, difficult, and sometimes downright frustrating, I also believe that it is possible to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time, though doing so will be neither quick nor easy. . . .

The military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met. . . . The overall number of security incidents in Iraq has declined in eight of the past 12 weeks, with the numbers of incidents in the last two weeks at the lowest levels seen since June 2006. . . . One reason for the decline in incidents is that Coalition and Iraqi forces have dealt significant blows to Al Qaeda-Iraq. Though Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq remain dangerous, we have taken away a number of their sanctuaries and gained the initiative in many areas. . . .

In what may be the most significant development of the past eight months, the tribal rejection of Al Qaeda that started in Anbar province and helped produce such significant change there has now spread to a number of other locations as well. . . .

The fundamental source of the conflict in Iraq is competition among ethnic and sectarian communities for power and resources. . . . The question is whether the competition takes place more or less violently. . . . Foreign and home-grown terrorists, insurgents, militia extremists and criminals all push the ethno-sectarian competition toward violence. Malign actions by Syria and, especially, by Iran fuel that violence. Lack of adequate governmental capacity, lingering sectarian mistrust, and various forms of corruption add to Iraq's challenges. . . .

Civilian deaths of all categories, less natural causes, have also declined considerably, by over 45% Iraq-wide since the height of the sectarian violence in December. . . . However, the level of civilian deaths is clearly still too high and continues to be of serious concern. . . .

I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer without jeopardizing the security gains that we have fought so hard to achieve. . . .

Our assessments underscore . . . the importance of recognizing that a premature drawdown of our forces would likely have devastating consequences.

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