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US Lawmakers Debate Iraq Situation Ahead of Key Report


The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq is hours away from delivering a long-anticipated report on the effectiveness of the surge that brought more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq earlier this year. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where lawmakers are now waiting for the report.

For months, President Bush has declined to comment on a possible timetable for reducing America's military presence in Iraq, saying he will await General David Petraeus' report on security conditions in Iraq in the wake of the U.S. troop surge. He has also asked the American people to withhold judgment until the general speaks. The time for that report is now nearly at hand.

It is widely expected that Petraeus will cite real security improvements in key Iraqi areas. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says that means the surge is working.

"I think it is undeniably working," said Lindsey Graham. "Security is better in Iraq than it has been before. Anbar [province] has been retaken from the enemy. Al-Qaida is on the run. So, yes, I am very pleased with the results of the surge. There is local political reconciliation. The people in Iraq are war-weary. It will not be long until Baghdad politicians follow through with major reconciliation, in my opinion."

Senator Graham spoke on the Fox News Sunday television program.

But his optimism is not shared by a Democratic colleague, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. Speaking on the CBS program Face the Nation, Kennedy argued the overall security situation in Iraq remains dire.

"We have chaos today, and I think an open-ended commitment [in Iraq], which is this administration's policy, is going to mean chaos tomorrow and into the future," said Senator Kennedy. "The best opportunity for doing something about that chaos is to make sure that the Iraqis are going to stand up for their nation. And the only way they are going to do that is to start the withdrawal of American troops."

A primary goal of the surge has been to create security conditions that would allow Iraq's leadership to tackle thorny issues of national reconciliation. But many in Washington, including some members of the Bush administration, have expressed disappointment with the apparent political gridlock gripping Iraq's national government, and the failure of the country's leaders to take definitive steps to address sectarian divisions.

Speaking on CNN's Late Edition program, Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie pleaded for patience when it comes to political goals as well as the ability of Iraq to defend itself.

"I do not think we should pin it down to a day or month [and say] that on that particular month we should be able to be self-reliant," said al-Rubaie. "We are working really, really hard to speed up the process to get to a self-reliant status."

General Petraeus will be joined by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker in testifying before committees in both the House and the Senate. President Bush is expected to address the nation on the situation in Iraq later in the week.

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