Today in his testimony to the House, Gen. David Petraeus cited the reduced violence in the Anbar province as evidence that President Bush’s “surge” is working. He added that it would be “premature” to withdraw U.S. troops now, because in January, “no one would have dared to forecast that Anbar Province would have been transformed the way it has in the past 6 months“:
However, in my professional judgment, it would be premature to make recommendations on the pace of such reductions at this time. In fact, our experience in Iraq has repeatedly shown that projecting too far into the future is not just difficult, it can be misleading and even hazardous. The events of the past six months underscore that point. When I testified in January, for example, no one would have dared to forecast that Anbar Province would have been transformed the way it has in the past 6 months.
Yet in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Commitee six months ago — just two weeks after Bush first announced his escalation plans — Petraeus admitted that in Anbar, there already appeared “to be a trend in the positive direction where sheikhs are stepping up”:
You’ve seen it, I know, in Anbar province, where it has sort of gone back and forth. And right now there appears to be a trend in the positive direction where sheikhs are stepping up and they do want to be affiliated with and supported by the U.S. Marines and Army forces who are in Anbar province. That was not the case as little as perhaps six months ago, or certainly before that. [Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, 1/23/07]
Bush’s “surge” is not responsible for progress in Anbar. The Sunni sheik who forged the alliance with the Americans “traced the decision to fight al-Qaeda to Sept. 14, 2006, long before the new Bush strategy.” Nevertheless, the Bush administration “dispatched another 4,000 U.S. troops to Anbar to exploit the situation.”
Last week, CNN correspondent Michael Ware also noted that the Sunni insurgency in Anbar offered to work with U.S. troops — not the Iraqi government — to fight al Qaeda in 2003, but the United States rejected the offer. Only “after four years of bloodshed” was the United States “finally ready to accept those terms.”
UPDATE: The Gavel has video of the opening statements by House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) and Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA).