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Petraeus Says Progress in Iraq `Uneven,' National Unity Lacking

By Tony Capaccio

Sept. 7 (Bloomberg) -- The top U.S. commander in Iraq said the U.S. has achieved ``uneven'' progress since the addition of 30,000 troops this year, and the goal -- to ``create space'' for the government to work toward national reconciliation -- has ``not worked out as we had hoped.''

Army General David Petraeus, in a letter to U.S. troops in Iraq posted on his Web site, lauded what he sees as spreading Sunni opposition to al-Qaeda in Iraq that started in al-Anbar province and, he said, has dramatically reduced violence there.

The letter does not hint at any reduction of troops. In an e-mailed exchange with the Boston Globe, Petraeus said he expects to recommend a gradual reduction in forces beginning next spring.

``I expect that some of our forces will deployed without replacement,'' Petraeus told the paper. This reduction would come as the five extra brigades sent to Iraq end their tours of duty.

Petraeus's two-page letter to the troops likely previews some of his testimony to Congress Sept. 10 and Sept. 11 -- a report that many lawmakers have said will determine whether more Republicans join Democrats in demanding a timetable to start withdrawing U.S. forces.

The U.S. has 164,000 troops in Iraq, including the five brigades added since February as the Bush administration sought to quell sectarian violence in and around Baghdad. The action was taken so that Iraqi leaders might reach the political compromises necessary to enact legislation that might enhance national unity.

``All the participants, Iraqi and coalition alike, are dissatisfied with the halting progress on major legislative initiatives,'' Petraeus wrote.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Capaccio in Washington at acapaccio@bloomberg.net

Petraeus Says Progress in Iraq `Uneven,' National Unity Lacking -  Source

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