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Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee - The Petraeus-Crocker Report on Progress in Iraq

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Location: Washington, DC

Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee - The Petraeus-Crocker Report on Progress in Iraq

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SEN. MARK L. PRYOR (D-AR): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'd like to start, if I could, with a question for both of you, and that is after two days on Capitol Hill, are you two ready to get back to Baghdad? (Laughter.)

AMB. CROCKER: Baghdad's never looked so good, Senator. (Laughter.)

SEN. PRYOR: No, seriously, I have a couple of questions for you, General Petraeus, about the slides that you showed earlier. And one is just a real basic question, and that is on slide number five, which is the caches found and cleared that you had, I just had a quick question in that I remember in the early days of us being in Iraq, we found a lot of caches that were former Saddam Hussein caches. I look at January to September '07 -- you know, some big numbers there.

Are these weapons old Saddam weapons, or are they new weapons?

GEN. PETRAEUS: They're a mix, Senator. And now they often include something called HME, which is homemade explosives, which is a mix of fertilizer and nitric acid that is mixed up and often put in -- sometimes in five-gallon or even as much as 55-gallon drums. But again, it runs the gamut. It includes, in some cases, weapons that clearly are traced back to Iran in terms of certain rockets, the explosively formed projectiles, and some mortars, two items that certainly may have come from some of the Saddam weapons storage sites, or have come in from other countries over time.

SEN. PRYOR: I assume you're seeing a fairly healthy mix of Iranian weapons in caches?

GEN. PETRAEUS: Again, there are certain ones that are signature weapons without question -- the EFPs, the rockets, mortars. The rest is -- it's just hard to tell where it came from.

SEN. PRYOR: I understand.

Okay, let me ask about the second graph I wanted to ask about, and that's your Iraqi security forces capability. It's slide number 12. Down on the bottom is the -- in most cases the shortest part of the bar graph, where they're fully independent forces, and then you see this large yellow band on top. I assume one of the fundamentals that you're talking about here in your report this week in Washington is you're trying to have a yellow-to-green policy; you're trying to turn this yellow area into green areas. Is that fair to say?

GEN. PETRAEUS: It is. And candidly, it is proving very difficult because the requirements to be green in terms -- they can get the strength up. That is not really an issue now. Their starting, I think, strength for most Iraqi army units is really quite good, and it is climbing.

The challenge is the fill of non-commissioned and commissioned officers. And as the number of units grows, as they take casualties in tough combat, they're very challenged to find those experienced soldiers who can step into those positions. They just don't have a large pool of that, and that's a limiting factor.

Also, the equipment, again, when they take losses, they do not have a good resupply. And that's fairly absolute. So if you don't have a certain mix of equipment, you're just not going to be ORE-1 (sp).

The truth is it doesn't mean that you may not be conducing independent operations; this is -- this is very important because it's something we work to. Obviously, we want to get them the right mix of equipment. We want to help them develop the leaders, the strength, again, and so forth, and to fix their logistical systems. But the fact that they're not ORE-1 (sp) does not mean that they may not be operating independently. And again, there are places where that actually happens.

SEN. PRYOR: That's one of the things that concerns me, is really there isn't a real clear trend that the green is going up and the yellow's going away.

GEN. PETRAEUS: No, I -- it's a tough standard to meet, especially when you're in combat and losing soldiers, equipment and leaders --

SEN. PRYOR: And do you have a --

GEN. PETRAEUS: -- and don't have a great logistical support structure.

And candidly, this is something that Senator Levin and Senator Warner are helping us with. They have put a lot of stock into foreign military sales, and we have to come through for them. And we talked to Senator Levin about that -- to the chairman and to Senator Warner when he was there. We really have to take this on. This cannot be a peacetime approach to foreign military sales.

I mentioned they put about -- I think it's 1.6 billion (dollars) already into it, could be that much and more by the end of the year. But we have to come through for them, and it can't be business as usual, it has to be really move very quickly.

SEN. PRYOR: And so I guess it's hard to say how long it'll take you to go from yellow to green, but you're trying to get there as quickly as you can.

GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, we are trying to get there. You can see -- I mean, they took steps backward because, again, of the hard fighting that took place to get the -- to deal with the sectarian violence and then to get it down. And that's the -- that's the unknown, unfortunately, just what kind of losses will they take, what kind of equipment will they lose.

SEN. PRYOR: Let me change the question here if I can, General Petraeus, and let me just see if you agree with this. First I'd say our military efforts in Iraq are very important and our men and women in uniform in Iraq are doing an outstanding job in some very difficult circumstances. Would you agree with that?

GEN. PETRAEUS: Certainly. Yes, sir.

SEN. PRYOR: But our military efforts are only part of the solution there; we must work very hard on four broad fronts -- diplomatic, economic, military and political. Would you agree with that?

GEN. PETRAEUS: In fact, those are the lines of operation, if you will, the LIOs, in our joint campaign plan. There is an MNF-I/embassy joint campaign plan, and in fact those are the lines of operation in it.

SEN. PRYOR: Ambassador Crocker, do you agree with that as well, that we need a broad effort, not just on military but also on diplomatic, economic and political?

AMB. CROCKER: Absolutely.

SEN. PRYOR: And my fundamental concern with the surge strategy is that if we don't have the diplomatic, the economic and the political efforts and progress in place, then the surge, I'm afraid, won't make a long-term difference in Iraq. So that's a concern I have.

In August, all of us went home to our home states, and I spent all month in Arkansas. And my sense of the Arkansas general public, their view of Iraq would be this. First, they're very patriotic. Second, they want to support -- they're going to support the warfighter regardless, no questions asked. Third, I'd say, is they want for the U.S. to leave Iraq in a better condition than what we found it. And they also need some assurance that the sacrifice we're making, that this country's making, is worth it. And they need that assurance from the president, first and foremost, and from the Congress and from you-all.

But I'll say this, too; that there's a sense with people I talk to back home -- is that the goal posts keep moving in Iraq. And I do have a concern about the report and the stuff that we're hearing today, is -- that is the goal posts have moved again. You know, we talked about the surge initially being maybe six months, and now it looks like it may be a year-plus before we get back down to the surge -- the pre-surge numbers.

So I think people want to support what we're doing there but they need some assurance on it, and they also desperately want to make sure that when we leave Iraq, we leave it in a better condition than what we found it.

And the last thing I had, Mr. Chairman, is, a number of us, 15 of us in the Senate have been working on a bill to try to implement the Iraq Study Group recommendations. I just want to leave a copy of this bill with you-all. It's an effort, in working with the Iraq Study Group and a bipartisan group of senators, 15 of us, eight -- I believe it's eight Democrats, seven Republicans. From my standpoint, it's really the only truly broad-based, bipartisan bill in the Congress -- in the House or Senate. And I know we talk about needing political consensus in Baghdad, which we do, but we also need it in Washington, D.C. You all have had a taste of that this week.

So I'm going to leave this with you, and I'd love to get your comments, either from you or your staffs, at some point in the very near future.

Thank you.

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