WASHINGTON -- Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker gave an upbeat report on progress in Iraq this morning after returning from a trip there late last night.
The Republican lawmakers met with American commander Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. They said Petraeus and Crocker likely will recommend reductions in U.S. troop levels when they update Congress in September on the war in Iraq. Troop levels were increased earlier this year to control sectarian violence.
Alexander and Corker visited Iraq, Kuwait and a hospital in Germany that treats injured soldiers. They met with two Iraqi vice presidents and visited an outpost outside Iraq to meet with four tribal leaders helping U.S. troops.
Alexander said a strategy devised by Petraeus to work with local leaders and win them over to the U.S. cause has shown "clear success, province by province."
"They are fed up with random murders of their children" by al-Qaida terrorists, he said.
During their 90-minute meeting with Petraeus and Crocker, the senators were told progress has been made in seven of the country's 18 provinces.
"No question we will be able to reduce troop levels," Corker said.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter has also returned from Iraq:
WASHINGTON — Fresh from his third tour of Iraq, U.S. Sen. David Vitter said Wednesday that the U.S. military is meeting its war goals set earlier this summer.
The Louisiana Republican, however, expressed concern that the Iraqi government is not living up to its end of the partnership.
Vitter was part of a contingent of four senators who spent three days touring Baghdad and another region of the country where they met with troops. Vitter also met with troops from Louisiana, he said.
Next month, Congress is scheduled to debate once again the role of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush plans to ask for more funding for the war through an emergency supplemental request.
Earlier in the year, Democrats in Congress threatened to cut off the funding to the war but relented after Bush and military leaders asked for three more months and proposed a new military strategy and “surge” or sudden increase in troops.
Vitter said the surge is working.
The United States has made significant strikes against Al Qaida terrorist forces and reduced sectarian violence in the nation, he said.
Vitter said he met with the chief military commander in Iraq, U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, for about 90 minutes.
“My bottom line conclusion is that the surge is working very, very well,” said Vitter, who returned to the U.S. late Tuesday night.
Vitter also took a helicopter ride outside the protected “green zone” to a region about 40 minutes outside of Baghdad, he said.
There, he met with two Iraqi vice presidents from the opposing Shia and Sunni factions.
Vitter worries that the Iraqi government is not stable enough to foster democracy in the nation, he said.
“The central government has not accomplished that yet and that is the frustration,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Earlier in the week, Levin called for the ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Bush said it will be up to the Iraqi people to make any change in their country’s leadership.
Vitter said he understands Levin’s frustration, but he does not believe that al-Maliki should be replaced.
military progress has always been the prerequisite for Iraq to obtain the ability to make political progress.
al-Maliki has been working on the political progress, despite the Iraq parliamentary being on the widely criticized "vacation", which has turned out to be a working vacation.
An Italian news service yesterday reported that al-Maliki may be seeing progress along that front also.
Politicians can play their political merry go round all they want, but as long as we are seeing progress and success, then we should not give up and cut and run as is being suggested by certain politicians simply because America losing is better for their careers.
No damn way.
The NIE report is also being talked about in the blogosphere, as usual it has the good the bad, the pretty and the ugly. A little something for everyone.
Some Key points are brought to us by The Corner.
There have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation since our last National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq in January 2007. The steep escalation of rates of violence has been checked for now, and overall attack levels across Iraq have fallen during seven of the last nine weeks. Coalition forces, working with Iraqi forces, tribal elements, and some Sunni insurgents, have reduced al-Qa’ida in Iraq’s (AQI) capabilities, restricted its freedom of movement, and denied it grassroots support in some areas. However, the level of overall violence, including attacks on and casualties among civilians, remains high; Iraq’s sectarian groups remain unreconciled; AQI retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks; and to date, Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively. There have been modest improvements in economic output, budget execution, and government finances but fundamental structural problems continue to prevent sustained progress in economic growth and living conditions.
We assess, to the extent that Coalition forces continue to conduct robust counterinsurgency operations and mentor and support the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), that Iraq’s security will continue to improve modestly during the next six to 12 months but that levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high and the Iraqi Government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation and improved governance. Broadly accepted political compromises required for sustained security, long-term political progress, and economic development are unlikely to emerge unless there is a fundamental shift in the factors driving Iraqi political and security developments.
Political and security trajectories in Iraq continue to be driven primarily by Shia insecurity about retaining political dominance, widespread Sunni unwillingness to accept a diminished political status, factional rivalries within the sectarian communities resulting in armed conflict, and the actions of extremists such as AQI and elements of the Sadrist Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) militia that try to fuel sectarian violence. Two new drivers have emerged since the January Estimate: expanded Sunni opposition to AQI and Iraqi expectation of a Coalition draw down. Perceptions that the Coalition is withdrawing probably will encourage factions anticipating a power vacuum to seek local security solutions that could intensify sectarian violence and intra-sectarian competition. At the same time, fearing a Coalition withdrawal, some tribal elements and Sunni groups probably will continue to seek accommodation with the Coalition to strengthen themselves for a post- Coalition security environment.
• Sunni Arab resistance to AQI has expanded in the last six to nine months but has not yet translated into broad Sunni Arab support for the Iraqi Government or widespread willingness to work with the Shia. The Iraqi Government’s Shia leaders fear these groups will ultimately side with armed opponents of the government, but the Iraqi Government has supported some initiatives to incorporate those rejecting AQI into Interior Ministry and Defense Ministry elements.
•Intra-Shia conflict involving factions competing for power and resources probably will intensify as Iraqis assume control of provincial security. In Basrah, violence has escalated with the draw down of Coalition forces there. Local militias show few signs of reducing their competition for control of valuable oil resources and territory.
• The Sunni Arab community remains politically fragmented, and we see no prospective leaders that might engage in meaningful dialogue and deliver on national agreements.
• Kurdish leaders remain focused on protecting the autonomy of the Kurdish region and reluctant to compromise on key issues.
The IC assesses that the emergence of “bottom-up” security initiatives, principally among Sunni Arabs and focused on combating AQI, represent the best prospect forimproved security over the next six to 12 months, but we judge these initiatives will only translate into widespread political accommodation and enduring stability if the Iraqi Government accepts and supports them.
The report does have mixed intel, but it does make it clear and warns of any drastic changes.
The whole 10 page report can be found here.
Text of report can be found here.
(NOTE: Instead of leaving you with the advertisements I usually have at the bottom of each post, I will leave you with one of the videos from Freedoms Watch) [30 second video.]