The top general in Iraq will not recommend another troop buildup, even if security worsens before U.S. soldiers begin coming home this summer, he said Wednesday.
Gen. David Petraeus told a House committee that such a move would be considered the last resort because of the strain it would place on the Army. His testimony comes on the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.
How fragile is the situation in Iraq? Watch more from Jed Babbin, editor of Human Events. Babbins has recently authored In the Words of Our Enemies, where he discusses what America's enemies are saying about their intentions for America.
"That would be a pretty remote thought in my mind," he said of reinstating last year's influx of troops.
Petraeus first said that the military would first move existing troops in response to any outbreak. Iraqi forces would need to be more relied on, he said, adding that the Iraqis are improving in capability.
He also recommended to President Bush that the U.S. complete its withdrawal of the 20,000 troops sent last year to curb the violence, by the end of July. The general has also proposed a 45-day evaluation period to assess whether any further pullouts would be possible
"We think it makes sense to have some time, to let the dust settle, perhaps to do some adjustment of forces, re-evaluation," Petraeus told the House Armed Services Committee.
President Bush to Present Televised Speech
Bush will address the nation on his decision about troop levels in Iraq at 11:30 a.m. EST, Thursday from the White House. He has said he would likely follow Petraeus' recommendations.
White House press secretary Dana Perino also said it is "within the realm of possibility" that Bush would discuss the length of soldiers' tours of duty in Iraq.
"I think the president has gotten a lot of advice," she said. "I think he's pretty far down the path of what he's going to say tomorrow."
Second Day of Testimony
Wednesday marked the second day of testimony by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador in Iraq. Both described Iraq as fragile and warned that hard-fought security gains could be lost if troops leave too soon.
Democrats said pausing troop reductions would signal to the Iraqis that the United States was committed to the war indefinitely.
"Political reconciliation hasn't happened, and violence has leveled off and may be creeping back up," said Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House committee. "So how can we encourage, if not force, the intransigent political leaders of Iraq to forge a real nation out of their base sectarian instincts?"
Republicans are more optimistic about the situation in Iraq than last year.
"No one can deny that the security situation in Iraq has improved," said Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, the No. 1 Republican on the committee.
When pressed by Skelton, the four-star general said he can envision more troops leaving after July.
Petraeus said the health of U.S. ground forces was a "major strategic consideration" in his recommendation and will continue to be a factor in his assessments.
"I am keenly aware of the strain," Petraeus said. Having been deployed himself since 2001, "this is something that my family and I do know a great deal about personally."
Democrats: Iraqis Must Pay for Rebuilding
Democrats also say they want the Iraqi government to spend funds from its own surplus in oil revenues to rebuild their country.
They plan on introducing legislation this spring that would force the Iraq republic to use funds from their own treasury, instead of U.S. dollars.
Iraq has about $30 billion in surplus funds stored in U.S. banks, according to Sen. Carl Levin.
Source: The Associated Press