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Hearings Rekindle Debate on Military Progress in Iraq

Gen. David Petraeus recommended a halt to future troop withdrawals to "preserve the still-fragile security gains" in Iraq during Senate hearings Tuesday with U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker. Military experts analyze what the testimony reveals about Iraq's security and progress.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    We have two people with us who both watched today's hearing, and they're two people with strong views on the subject of the troops in Iraq and their mission there.

    Frederick Kagan is a military historian and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He called for a troop surge even before the president did.

    And retired Army Lieutenant General William Odom is a former director of the National Security Agency. He's now an adjunct professor of political science at Yale University.

    Welcome to you both.

    General Odom, Professor Odom, let me begin with you. In advocating a pause in the drawdown of troops today, General Petraeus and also Ambassador Crocker essentially said that there had been security gains, progress, but it was significant, but uneven, and it was fragile, but reversible, and, therefore, this was a reason to pause the drawdown, say, come July.

    You don't share that view, I gather?

    GEN. WILLIAM ODOM (Ret.), U.S. Army: The uncomfortable truth is beginning to dawn on them. The surge has sustained military instability and achieved nothing in political consolidation.

    Allowing these sheiks in the Sunni areas and other strongmen to sign up with the United States to be paid, where we protect them from Maliki's government, diffuses power, both political and military.

    The possibilities for the Shiite camp to break up have been there all along. Sadr's forces, his Mahdi Army, were standing by to see what would happen. Maliki, against the best advice of both Ambassador Crocker and Petraeus, General Petraeus, went ahead, rushed down, and got into a fight in Basra, which he lost.

    Now that is a huge political setback for Maliki, and it shows you how fractured the Shiite camp is, not to speak of the multi fractures within the Shiite-Sunni area.

    So the things are much worse now. And I don't see that they'll get any better. This was foreseeable a year, a year-and-a-half ago. And to continue to put the cozy veneer of comfortable half-truth on this is to deceive the American public and to make them think it's not the charade it is.

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