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Hearing of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations - Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Priorities in Iraq

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Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

REP. JESSE L. JACKSON JR. (D-IL): Thank you, Madame Chair. And in light of the time and in deference to my colleagues, I will, if you don't mind, Ambassador, read you both of my questions and you can summarize the answers, in the interest of time.

Thank you, Chairwoman.

Ambassador Crocker, welcome back to our subcommittee, and thank you for your testimony and for your service to the country.

The problem with being the fifth committee in three days is you've probably heard every question and asked them and answered them many times. But here it goes anyway.

Ambassador Crocker, the president, you and General Petraeus seem to be saying that the surge is working and generally we're going in the right direction. Both you and the general say that despite this, "we will be drawing down our troops from 156,000 to 140,000 by the end of July, followed by a period of evaluation and consolidation," unquote -- followed by an indefinite, quote-unquote, "assessment period."

What I'm trying to figure out, Ambassador, is if you can not draw down our forces if we're showing progress, and if you cannot draw down our forces if we're not showing progress, then could you share with our committee under what conditions would we be able to draw down our forces, in your mind?

AMB. CROCKER: Sir, we are of course drawing down our forces. And by July, our combat power will be reduced by 25 percent from what it was at the peak of the surge, basically down to pre-surge levels.

It certainly is the view General Petraeus and I hold that we then need to -- we need to look at what the situation is. And we've gone through in our previous testimony some of the factors we look at: the quality of the Iraqi security forces, their numbers, political conditions, sectarian or ethnic friction and so forth.

So that will be, you know, the process of assessment. And in many respects, it's more art than science. It's how it feels. It is, you know, certainly our intention -- and I don't mean to speak for General Petraeus, obviously, but we, you know, we -- (inaudible) -- pretty well that we want to get our forces home. We want to be sure that we do so in a way that doesn't unnecessarily risk the gains that they've fought so hard to achieve.

So we've got to -- you know, we've got to have this evaluation. There are some areas that we already think we'll be looking at. But this, in our view, is the prudent way to proceed. It doesn't mean, you know, that we just plateau at the pre-surge level and that's it forever -- not at all. But it does mean that we've got to take a very careful look at what happens next.

REP. JACKSON: Madame Chair, out of deference to my colleagues and given the time constraints of the ambassador, I'll submit the rest of my questions for the record.

Ambassador, I'd appreciate a response.

Madame Chair, thank you.

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