Patraeus will testify before Congress

General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will testify before US lawmakers at public hearings to be held early next month, the White House said Monday.

The two men, responsible for implementing and assessing President George W. Bush’s “surge” strategy in Iraq, will likely testify September 11 and 12, national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters.

The two men are preparing a report on the Iraq war which is due to be released on September 15.

“General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will testify in open hearings on (Capitol) Hill,” Johndroe said.

“Given the tight schedule leading up to September 15 and the congressional recess … the likely dates for testimony are September 11 and September 12,” he said.

He denied, however, that the date was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

On Saturday, Bush downplayed the benchmarks imposed by the US Congress in assessing progress in Iraq.

In his weekly radio address, Bush acknowledged that “political progress at the national level had not matched the pace of progress at the local level,” and that the benchmarks had largely remained unmet.

But he insisted “in a democracy, over time national politics reflects local realities” and “as reconciliation occurs in local communities across Iraq, it will help create the conditions for reconciliation in Baghdad as well.”

The 18 benchmarks, written by Congress into law earlier this year, call, however, for sustainable progress in national reconciliation and mending the country’s broken economy as a condition for continued US support.