Since Bush ordered to send more troops to the Baghdad area last January, the president has asked lawmakers to wait for the Petraeus assessment before they make decisions about future troop levels.
Petraeus said that while it is still "very dangerous" in Iraq and the insurgents remain "capable" of carrying out what he called barbaric attacks, he believes that this summer the surge has produced an "initiative, in general, against al Qaeda, which is a change, and that is an important change.
"Eight of the past 11 weeks have seen the number of incidents, the number of attacks, come down, and to the point that they reached a level that's about the lowest in well over a year, I think," he said. "Civilian casualties [are] still certainly too high. But again, pretty substantial progress, and certainly, trending very much in the right direction."
He specifically points to the progress in al Anbar Province, which was once an al Qaeda hotbed.
"That was the result, not of military actions, certainly, alone. It was the result of, really, a political shift where the population led by the sheiks of major tribes decided to reject al Qaeda and its Taliban-like ideology, and the extremist behavior that they have come to associate with it," Petraeus said.
"That is what brought the level of violence down so dramatically. Because al Qaeda no longer finds a hospitable place in the Euphrates River Valley the way it did, certainly, in the past."
The top military general in Iraq hinted to ABC's Martha Raddatz that next week's much-anticipated report on the status of the troop surge in Iraq would include a recommendation for troop reduction in March, if not sooner, to avoid a strain on the Army.
"The surge will run its course. There are limits to what our military can provide, so, my recommendations have to be informed by — not driven by — but they have to be informed by the strain we have put on our military services," Gen. David Petraeus said in the interview at Camp Victory in Baghdad. "That has to be a key factor in what I will recommend."
Labels: Gen. David Petraeus