NEW YORK TIMES: The senior commander of multinational forces in Iraq warned Congress Tuesday against removing “too many troops too quickly” and refused under stiff questioning to offer even an estimate of American force levels by the end of this year. Those comments from Gen. David H. Petraeus were met by sharp criticism from a senior Democrat, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, that the Bush administration had adopted “a war plan with no exit strategy.” General Petraeus said that security progress has been “significant but uneven.” Under questioning, he declined to estimate American troop levels beyond the withdrawal by July of five additional combat brigades sent to Iraq last year. And he acknowledged that the government’s recent offensive in Basra was not sufficiently well-planned. The general told senators that he was recommending a 45-day pause — which he defined as a period of “consolidation and evaluation” — before reviewing once again whether there should be further troop reductions. “This process will be continuous, with recommendations for further reductions made as conditions permit,” General Petraeus said. “This approach does not allow establishment of a set withdrawal timetable. However, it does provide the flexibility those of us on the ground need to preserve the still-fragile security gains our troopers have fought so hard and sacrificed so much to achieve.” MORE
THE GUARDIAN: In Vietnam, American military mythology holds that if only the army had been more steadfast in opposing the Tet offensive, it could have won the war. It was “lack of will” at home that led to eventual defeat. Hence there should be no lack of will in Iraq, or America’s friends will fall before an army of Iranian imams. There is no way of sustaining a client who no longer exists except by virtue of being sustained. The past fortnight has shown conclusively that the Maliki government is wholly dependent on America. The surge was a military tactic, not a strategy. It was supposed, in that old cliche, to “supply politics with a breathing space”. But hundreds have continued to die, and Iraq’s politics remain rooted in the embattled culture of the green zone. The truth is that there will be no peace within the Shia regions, no peace between Sunnis and Shias, and no resolution of the issues dividing Arabs and Kurds until the occupation is over. The occupation freezes politics. All else is tinkering. MORE
CNN: In fighting Tuesday in al-Sadr’s Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City, 12 people were killed and 27 wounded. At least 48 people have been killed and 176 wounded since Sunday, an Interior Ministry official said. Eight of the 11 U.S. troops killed in Iraq on Sunday and Monday died in fighting in Baghdad.Four U.S. soldiers were killed Monday in the capital, the U.S. military said.
THE AGE: The number of Iraqis killed in March climbed to 1,082, the highest monthly figure since August, amid a spike in violence driven by clashes between Shiite militiamen and security forces, officials said on Tuesday. Combined figures obtained by AFP from the interior, defence and health ministries showed that the total number of Iraqis killed in March was 1,082, including 925 civilians, up 50 percent on the February figure of 721.
NEW YORK TIMES: The war in Iraq collided with White House ambitions in a politically ripe hearing room on Capitol Hill Tuesday as two would-be commanders-in-chief — Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain – swooped in from the campaign trail to question the top American commander in Baghdad, Gen. David H. Petraeus, and to make veiled attacks on each other.
“What conditions would have to exist for you to recommend to the president that the current strategy is not working?” Mrs. Clinton asked General Petraeus, with only a slight edge of exasperation in her voice. The conditions, she added “are unclear, they lack specificity and the decision points are vague.” General Petraeus, who at this point was more than three hours into the hearing, responded that “there has indeed been progress in the political arena,” and then said, in an answer that may not have satisfied Mrs. Clinton, that there was “sort of a political-military calculus that you have to consider.”
Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton reserved their real fire for each other. Shortly after the hearing began, Mr. McCain was out of the gate with an opening statement that called on Americans to reject the calls for a “reckless and irresponsible withdrawal of our forces at the moment when they are succeeding” and that promising such a withdrawal, “regardless of the consequences,” was “a failure of political and moral leadership.”
Mrs. Clinton, who has repeatedly called for troop withdrawals, fired back when her turn came three hours later, close to 12:30 p.m., but by then Mr. McCain had long escaped the room.“I just want to respond to some of the statements and suggestions that have been made leading up to this hearing, and even during it, that it is irresponsible or demonstrates a lack of leadership to advocate withdrawing troops from Iraq in a responsible and carefully planned withdrawal,” Mrs. Clinton. “I fundamentally disagree. Rather, I think it could be fair to say that it might well be irresponsible to continue the policy that has not produced the results that have been promised time and time again.” MORE
TYPICAL FOX NEWS WATCHER: I am frustrated by liberals who think that President Bush is the cause of the war in Iraq.
ASSOCIATED PRESS: Obama pressed Petraeus and Crocker on their standard for success in Iraq. The Illinois senator and Democratic front-runner said he worries that the goals _ completely eliminating al-Qaida and Iranian influences _ may be impossible to achieve and troops could be there for 20 or 30 years in a fruitless effort. “If, on the other hand, our criteria is a messy, sloppy status quo but there’s not huge outbreaks of violence, there’s still corruption, but the country is struggling along, but it’s not a threat to its neighbors and it’s not an al-Qaida base, that seems to me an achievable goal within a measurable timeframe,” he said. Obama argued that the best way to resolve the political situation is by withdrawing troops in a measured way that increases pressure on both sides. He also said any future steps should include U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran. “I do not believe we’re going to be able to stabilize the position without them,” he said. “I continue to believe that the original decision to go into Iraq was a massive strategic blunder (and) that the two problems (of withdrawing troops) that you’ve pointed out _ al-Qaida in Iraq and increased Iranian influence in the region _ are a direct result of that original decision,” Obama told Petraeus and Crocker. Obama opposed the war while rivals Clinton and McCain voted in 2002 to authorize the use of military force in Iraq. MORE
BOSTON GLOBE: If, as has been widely predicted, Barack Obama loses Pennsylvania, it will not be for lack of effort. Obama is currently spending $2.2 million per week on television here, over twice what Hillary Clinton is spending and an unprecedented ad buy in Pennsylvania, according to Democratic media consultant Neil Oxman, who is not working for a candiadte. “Nobody has ever spent 2.2 million in this state: not Rendell, not Specter, not Casey, not Santorum, not Bush, not Kerry,” said Oxman, naming the best-funded candidates to run statewide in recent years. “That’s unbelievable.” MORE
CNN: The latest Quinnipiac poll and CNN’s poll of polls released on Monday show Clinton’s lead over Obama in Pennsylvania continues to shrink ahead of the state’s April 22 primary.Monday’s polls, conducted March 26 through Saturday, showed Clinton holding a 7 percentage point lead over Obama — 49 percent to 42 percent; 9 percent remained unsure.
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