General David Petraeus has proven himself to be an astute general, so when he calls for a halt in troop withdrawals from Iraq we should listen closely. Petraeus has called for a 45 day “period of consolidation and evaluation” beginning in July after last year’s troop additions have left. In remarks at a Senate hearing, Petraeus said:

”At the end of that [45 day] period, we will commence a process of assessment to examine the conditions on the ground and, over time, determine when we can make recommendations for further reductions.

“This process will be continuous, with recommendations for further reductions made as conditions permit. 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 a sacrificed so much to achieve…

“Withdrawing too many forces too quickly could jeopardize the progress of the past year.”

What this tells us is that conditions on the ground are still unstable but that the general believes the gains of the last year can be made permanent so long as we don’t exit too quickly. Notice also that Petraeus is concerned with “security” not “democracy” or any other lofty goals. It seems more and more clear that our new measure of “victory” will be “stability.” Question is, will war opponents believe Petraeus’ assessments of the situation or will they continue to advocate timetables unrelated to actual security gains?

It’ll be interesting to see how or if the Democratic presidential contenders react to Petraeus’ remarks.

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