In his Congressional testimony in September, Gen. David Petraeus announced that he would soon begin to withdraw 30,000 troops from Iraq, stating that progress due to the escalation permitted a reduction to “pre-surge” levels by next summer:
Based on all this and on the further progress we believe we can achieve over the next few months, 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.
In multiple public interviews after his testimony, Petraeus vowed to bring the 30,000 troops home by next summer. “[W]hat I showed on Capitol Hill…will take place,” he said on PBS. “Starting in mid-December and then ending in mid-July, the five Army brigade combat teams and two Marine battalions will redeploy,” he said in an interview with Fox News.
President Bush warmly embraced Petraeus’s plan. But it now appears Petraeus may backtrack from this central tenet of his congressional testimony. After undergoing a revision of the “classified campaign strategy” on Iraq, a senior Petraeus adviser reports that Petraeus is willing to leave the troops in Iraq depending on “the security situation on the ground”:
“Redeployments of U.S. brigades — even of the surge forces — are dependent on the security situation on the ground in Iraq. If General Petraeus early next year sees the security situation deteriorating, he will have the courage to go back to the president and say he needs to keep forces that he had planned to send home,” said Col. John R. Martin, senior adviser to Petraeus.
In the end, President Bush and Gen. Petraeus’s strategy has failed at its primary goal. Nevertheless, Petraeus wants to buy more time for his unsuccessful attempt to quell Iraq’s civil war.