Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said he is frustrated and disappointed with the lack of political progress by the central government in Baghdad, just a day before he is expected to give Congress a much-anticipated report appraising the achievements of the Iraqi government.
Speaking to ABC News while visiting a U.S. patrol base 20 miles south of Baghdad, Petraeus talked about the central government, saying, "Nobody is happy with where they are right now. We all share that frustration and, frankly, that disappointment."
In the past, Petraeus has repeatedly said that U.S. troops cannot ultimately win the war in Iraq. — It can only be won by the Iraqi government if it can find some way to reconcile Sunnis and Shiites.
The U.S. Congress has set up a series of benchmarks as targets for the Iraqi government, but few have been even partially achieved.
Petraeus is upbeat about the fight against al Qaeda extremists in Iraq, who he thinks are now on the run in many parts of the country.
"I think al Qaeda is off plan in Iraq … as people learn more about the Taliban-like state that they want to impose on provinces and areas in Iraq. They have turned against it and that is a very significant development," he said.
But even as he sees progress against al Qaeda, Petraeus is very conscious of increased pressure in Congress for a drawdown of U.S. troops, which, he said, is always "in the back of our minds.
"There is not a great deal we can do about it other than to continue to press forward and to use all the resources that we have to show that there is progress in the fight against al Qaeda," he said.
Petraeus spends a lot of his time hosting members of Congress. Last week alone, three separate congressional delegations visited Iraq.
"What our job is, is to provide forthright and accurate assessments to them — to discuss the situation and to explain what we think we can achieve, what is achievable in a reasonable timeline," Petraeus said.