By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
July 10, 2007 – Defense officials do not want Americans to jump to "premature conclusions" about the troop surge in Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said today. The last of 21,500 combat troops ordered into Baghdad and other hot spots for surge operations arrived in Iraq just three weeks ago. "It is important to give our commanders in the field the opportunity that we said we were going to provide," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters today.
The Bush administration will deliver an initial report to Congress by July 15 on progress of 18 benchmarks specified in legislation granting funding for the war effort.
The emergency supplemental legislation Congress passed in April called for the July 15 interim report on the surge by. Another report is due by Sept. 15.
Whitman said the department is focused on the September report.
"It's focused on the operations that have been put in place that execute the strategy that was planned and agreed upon with an expectation that we would be in a better place in September to provide some assessments with respect to the way forward," he said.
Whitman said the July report has assumed "some prominence that wasn't anticipated." In fact, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates postponed a trip to Central and South America to concentrate on the report.
Whitman said the secretary will speak to members of Congress from both parties and will work with others in the administration in crafting the report.
The surge is having an effect on security in Iraq, Whitman said. In the three weeks since the final troops arrived, the surge is having a positive effect.
"They are seeing a difference and it is making an impact in their areas," he said. He added that "time will tell, and there are plenty of challenges remaining."