WASHINGTON – President Bush’s top two military and political advisers on Iraq will warn Congress on Monday that making any significant changes to the current war strategy will jeopardize the limited security and political progress made so far, the Associated Press has learned.
U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who has been less forthcoming than Gen. David Petraeus in advance of his testimony, will join Petraeus in pushing for maintaining the U.S. troop surge, seeing it as the only viable option to prevent Iraq and the region from plunging into further chaos, U.S. officials said.
Crocker and Petraeus planned to meet today to go over their remarks and responses to expected tough questioning from lawmakers – including skeptical Republicans. But they will not consult Bush or their immediate bosses before their appearances Monday and Tuesday, in order to preserve the “independence and the integrity of their testimony,” said one official.
Petraeus and Crocker did have lengthy discussions with the president, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when Bush visited Iraq on Labor Day.
Crocker, a career diplomat with extensive experience in the Middle East who opposed the war when it began in 2003, is pushing for political change where progress has been elusive and the administration’s options are limited under the fragile Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Yet the diplomat will say that as poorly as al-Maliki’s government has performed, it would not be advisable at the moment for the U.S. to support new leadership or lobby for a different coalition of Iraq’s fractious Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, the officials said.
Crocker also will discuss the challenges of corruption, reconciliation, de-Baathification and the difficulties of enacting wide-ranging legislation such as an oil law, according to officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal deliberations.
Both Crocker and Petraeus will say the buildup of 30,000 troops, bringing the current U.S. total to nearly 170,000, has achieved some success and is working better than any previous effort to quell the insurgency and restore stability, according to officials familiar with their thinking.