General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, told a joint session of the House foreign affairs and armed services committees today that the United States would start to withdraw troops later this month with the goal of returning to pre-surge levels by summer 2008.
"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," Petraeus told members of Congress, while acknowledging that the situation in the Iraq remains "complex, difficult and sometimes downright frustrating."
Petraeus provided members of Congress with a a series of slides on progress in Iraq, and he claimed that the troop surge has led to reduced violence in Baghdad and Anbar provinces.
Unfortunately, even by Petraeus's own figures, the most significant decreases in sectarian violence and civilian deaths occurred in December 2006 and January 2007. New troops from the US surge did not begin arriving until February 2007, and the only way Petraeus can claim credit for these decreases is if he wants us to believe that the mere threat of new troops scared insurgents out of Anbar and Baghdad.
For those of you seeking some balance to the happy-face spin that Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker provided Congress today, I suggest that you read "Security in Iraq still elusive" by Leila Fadel of McClatchey's Baghdad bureau. For those of you too jaded to care any more, or who accept at face value the disinformation being dished out by General Petraeus, feel free to return to your fire table, plasma television set, and stainless steel refrigerator with the spotless glass doors.