House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the following statement today discussing the Committee’s recent hearings on Iraq policy and previewing next Monday’s hearing with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. 

   “The lack of political progress in Iraq is disturbing and I fear that all of our military efforts will be for naught if the Iraqis fail to achieve the political settlements needed to secure a bright future for that country.  The surge was intended to provide ‘breathing space’ for the Iraqis to bridge sectarian divides with real political compromises.  But while our troops are holding back the opposing team to let them make a touchdown, the Iraqis aren’t even picking up the ball. 

   “Last week’s testimony from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) made clear the Iraqi government has not taken advantage of the security improvements provided by additional U.S. troops to move toward true national reconciliation.  The Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq led by General Jones also emphasized the importance of political progress in order to bring about lasting security improvements. 

   “I continue to be very concerned about the strategic risk assumed by the United States as long as we maintain our significant troop presence in Iraq.  Repeated deployments have stretched and strained our military, particularly our ground forces, and this strain impacts our ability to effectively prepare and respond to future national security threats. In my 30 years in Congress, we have been involved in 12 contingencies involving military forces, and I fear that as stretched as we are now, we could not handle another major one.  We must ask ourselves if assuming this level of risk – dedicating 160,000 members of our military to a war that the Iraqi government is unwilling to help bring to a close – really makes sense for our national security.      

   “Last week, the House Armed Services Committee began a series of four hearings on the current status of political and security efforts in Iraq.  We received testimony from the GAO assessing the Iraqi government’s progress on benchmarks, testimony from the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, and testimony from two retired Army generals and a former Secretary of Defense who discussed their views on the current U.S. policy in Iraq. 

   “This coming Monday, we look forward to the testimony of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker when they will deliver their much anticipated briefing to Congress.  We expect their best professional assessment of the situation in Iraq, and I particularly hope that they address how Iraq’s government will move forward with reconciliation at a national level and what steps the Iraqi’s are willing to take to make reconciliation effective.”