Gen. David Petraeus dug in his heels during a Senate hearing Tuesday, refusing to give specifics about additional U.S. troop withdrawal plans after July, recommending a “pause” instead and taking heat from congressional opponents like Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton in the process. Meanwhile, John McCain spoke of “real hope and optimism” for Iraq’s future.


The New York Times:

“This process will be continuous, with recommendations for further reductions made as conditions permit,” General Petraeus said. “This approach does not allow establishment of a set withdrawal timetable. However, it does provide the flexibility those of us on the ground need to preserve the still-fragile security gains our troopers have fought so hard and sacrificed so much to achieve.”

The lethality of terrorists within Iraq who say they are aligned with Al Qaeda has been “reduced significantly,” General Petraeus said, but they continue to pose a worrisome threat. Only “relentless pressure” will guarantee that terrorists cannot regroup, he added.

“Countless sectarian fault-lines still exist in Baghdad and elsewhere,” General Petraeus said, but he noted that Sunni leaders, who were marginalized by early efforts of the majority Shiite government, had joined the security over recent months, with important successes.

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