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WASHINGTON, DC - Sept. 10: House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., during the joint hearing with House Foreign Affairs on Iraq with Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. The military can reduce the level of U.S. forces in Iraq to their pre-surge level by next summer without jeopardizing recent security gains, Gen. David H. Petraeus told lawmakers Monday. "I have recommended a drawdown of the surge forces in Iraq," due to a slowly improving security situation and the increasing capability of Iraqi forces to accept responsibility for security, Petraeus told a joint hearing of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees. The surge of troops ordered by President Bush in January is having its desired effect, Petraeus declared. "The military objectives of the surge are by and large being met," Petraeus testified. He said he had recommended the gradual withdrawal of five Army brigade combat teams, two Marine battalions, and a Marine Expeditionary Unit. The MEU would leave Iraq later this month, and the first combat brigade would depart in mid-December. The reductions would drop the number of U.S. troops in Iraq from approximately 160,000 to the pre-surge level of around 130,000 by July 2008. After next summer, "force reductions will continue beyond the pre-surge levels," Petraeus said, although he said he would not be ready to discuss specifics until mid-March 2008. Petraeus' recommendations resemble a plan suggested by former Senate Armed Services Chairman John W. Warner, R-Va., last month, when he suggested bringing home about 5,000 troops by Christmas to show the Iraqi government that the U.S. military commitment is not indefinite. Appearing with Petraeus was U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who said he does not expect rapid progress over the next six months on the 18 benchmarks for Iraqi government progress laid out in the fiscal 2007 emergency supplemental law (PL 110-28). However, Crocker said discussions on feder

WASHINGTON, DC - Sept. 10: House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., during the joint hearing with House Foreign Affairs on Iraq with Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. The military can reduce the level of U.S. forces in Iraq to their pre-surge level by next summer without jeopardizing recent security gains, Gen. David H. Petraeus told lawmakers Monday. "I have recommended a drawdown of the surge forces in Iraq," due to a slowly improving...
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