If there's one message Gen. David Petraeus left behind after two days of testimony and a 90-minute press conference with Washington reporters, it's that he adamantly disagrees with any effort to accelerate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
Asked whether he would support the more dramatic drawdown of forces next year, as proposed by Democrats in Congress, Petraeus said "it's not something I feel comfortable doing."
Addressing a packed room of reporters at the National Press Club alongside Ambassador Ryan Crocker on Wednesday morning, Petraeus was pressed on whether his declaration of success of the surge could lead to even faster pullout of troops beyond the 30,000 he says will come home by next July.
The four-star general said he couldn't commit to any other withdrawal schedule "without jeopardizing the gains we have started to achieve."
Petraeus did counter Democratic concerns about a long-term occupation, arguing that he "didn't say there's an open-ended commitment." But he would only say further withdrawal of troops next summer "depends on conditions," a vague answer sure to rile Democrats.
In fact, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, fired off a letter to President Bush today calling on him to "greatly accelerate the redeployment" of troops. But Clinton did not offer a timetable or a specific number of troops she would like to see redeployed.