- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 28, 2007

A top U.S. military adviser yesterday rebuked the Democrat-led Congress for ignoring recent success of the troop surge in Iraq and trying to hamstring the war effort with legislation.

“Your actions here in the Congress appear to be in direct conflict with the realities on the ground where the trends are up and progress is being made,” retired Army Gen. John M. Keane, adviser to U.S. commanders in Iraq, told a House panel that is considering time limits on troop deployments.

“Your resolution, like so many others proposed, ties the hands of our military commanders and deprives them of the opportunity to use the appropriate level of force for the time that is required to use that force,” he said.

But Gen. Keane’s assessment and other reports of U.S. military gains in Iraq did not impress Democrats.

Democratic leaders are “not willing to concede there are positive things to point to” in Iraq, said a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Republicans said the speaker was not following her own advice to “listen to the generals,” a common refrain from Mrs. Pelosi before the troop surge when several military leaders criticized the previous war strategy.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner seized upon Gen. Keane’s comments.

“Compare the reports from our commanders on the ground in Iraq to the rhetoric and retreat proposals of Democrats in Washington, and you’ll see exactly what prompted General Keane’s testimony,” the Ohio Republican said.

“General Petraeus’ massive offensive against al Qaeda is working, but you’d never know it listening to the defeatist rhetoric of congressional Democrats,” Mr. Boehner said. “It’s shocking, especially when you consider what is at stake in the war on terror.”

Gen. Keane, an adviser to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, told the House Armed Services Committee that the troop surge President Bush ordered six months ago and which reached its full strength last month has turned the tide against al Qaeda and insurgents.

“We are on the offensive and have the momentum,” Gen. Keane said, citing improved security throughout Baghdad, reduced sectarian violence, lower U.S. casualties this month and al Qaeda losing ground in Sunni areas.

“Not all is rosy in Iraq to be sure, and I am not suggesting as such,” he said. “The Shi’ite militia are attacking U.S. forces, but they are fragmented.”

The remarks extend a public-relations offensive the administration began last week to tout progress in Iraq and simultaneously lower Capitol Hill lawmakers’ expectations for a military progress report due Sept. 15.

Democrats expect bad news in the report by Gen. Petraeus — particularly findings that the Iraqi government failed to meet benchmarks for political reconciliation — to convince Republicans to split from Mr. Bush and back a pullout plan.

Mrs. Pelosi has scheduled a series of antiwar votes before the August recess, likely including bills that would close the detention center at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or limit the length of troop deployments likely next week.

Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat and Mrs. Pelosi’s point man in the war debate, plans an amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill next week that would mandate that a troop withdrawal start by the end of the year but would not set a deadline for a complete pullout.

“The Democratic Congress will go on record — every day if necessary — to register a judgment in opposition to the course of action that the president is taking in Iraq,” Mrs. Pelosi said Wednesday as the House passed a symbolic measure that would ban permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.

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