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Petraeus Plays Defense in Testimony

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This piece was originally posted on The Washington Independent

In September, Gen. David Petraeus's mission on Capitol Hill was offensive.

He had to roll back the advance of congressional Democrats who were gathering the political momentum to stop President George W. Bush's surge of U.S. troops in Iraq. Before the summer recess, Senate Democrats were peeling off nervous Republicans for a measure sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) to harmonize the amount of time soldiers spent at home with their time deployed. Because of the obscure, complex math guiding Iraq deployments, Webb's innocuous-sounding measure would have killed the surge dead.

By the time Petraeus testified on Sept. 11, 2007, the Democrats were three GOP defections away from a veto-proof majority. Thanks to Petraeus' bravura performance seven months ago, it never became law.

But now that the surge has died of natural causes, Petraeus' goal on Capitol Hill this week was as hazy as the mission of the Iraq war itself. In the short-term, Petraeus argued that when all the surge brigades return home in July, Congress should allow him a 45-day "pause" to assess the situation before even considering further troop reductions. Beyond that, however, Petraeus demonstrated little inclination to describe how his strategy for actually fighting the war will change once he no longer has roughly 30,000 extra troops at his disposal. Nor were four congressional committees particularly interested in the answer to that question.

Continue reading at: The Washington Independent.