President Bush's top two military and political advisers on Iraq will warn Congress on Monday that making any major changes to the current war strategy will jeopardize the limited security and political progress made so far, The Associated Press has reported.
U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who has been less forthcoming than Gen. David Petraeus in advance of his testimony, will join Petraeus in pushing for maintaining the American troop surge, seeing it as the only viable way to prevent Iraq and the region from plunging into further chaos, U.S. officials said.
Crocker and Petraeus planned to meet on Sunday to go over their remarks and responses to expected tough questioning from lawmakers. But they will not consult Bush or their immediate bosses before their appearances Monday and Tuesday, in order to preserve the "independence and the integrity of their testimony," said one official, according to the AP.
Petraeus and Crocker did have lengthy discussions with the president, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when Bush visited Iraq last week.
Crocker is pushing for political change where progress has been elusive and the administration's options are limited under the fragile Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He is expected to say that as poorly as al-Maliki's government has performed, it would not be advisable at the moment for the U.S. to support new leadership or lobby for a different coalition of Iraq's fractious Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, the officials said.
Crocker also will discuss the challenges of corruption, reconciliation, de-Baathification and the difficulties of enacting wide-ranging legislation such as an oil law, according to officials.
Both Crocker and Petraeus will claim the buildup of 30,000 troops, bringing the current U.S. total to nearly 170,000, has achieved some success and is working better than any previous effort to quell the "insurgency" and restore stability.
Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and Crocker were in the Washington area on Saturday working separately on final drafts of opening testimony on Capitol Hill. Later in the week, Bush plans a national address.