So these hearings were a tame operation by comparison with the two previous Petraeus Crocker hearings. Still, some very important points.
Three key points:
1. Afghan/Pakistan border region, not Iraq, is the greatest threat: General Petraeus agrees with Admiral Mullen and with our intelligence commnity that the next likely terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland will come from Pakistan and the Federally Administred Tribal Areas. So just to sum up. Our intelligence Community, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and future CENTCOM commander all agree that Pakistan is the greatest danger, but conservatives continue to insist that Iraq is the central front.
2. Petraeus agrees with Gates, not Bush and McCain, on talking to Iran: In his written responses General Petraeus agreed with Secretary Gates that we need a comprehensive approach to Iran that includes real diplomacy and engages on all issues.
3. Odierno acknowledges that there is no need for a permanent presence in Iraq: Despite John McCain's claims that we can have an indefinite Korea-like presence in Iraq, when asked by Jim Webb about the need for a permanent presence Odierno stated that it would be unnecessary.
4. McCain missing in action: As the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, you'd think John McCain would show up. But instead he is in California campaigning and fundraising. When Petraeus was last confirmed for Iraq Commander, McCain was off in Davos Switzerland.
Some other important pieces:
1. There is a possibility that General Petraeus will recommend further troop reductions after the pause in August. Numbers and certainty are unclear.
2. The Iraqi provincial elections, which are central to bringing about reconcilliation are being delayed from October until at least November.
3. There is still no clear indication whether the Sons of Iraq will actually be integrated into the current government and security forces. There are no good benchmarks on progress on that front and for the most part Petraeus and Odierno remained quite vague when asked about this problem.
4. Petraeus essentially acknowledges that we need more troops in Afghanistan but that Iraq is impeding that effort and agrees with Army Vice Chief of Staff General Cody that we have little "strategic flexibility" in terms of troop levels.