By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
April 8, 2008 - American troops fighting in Iraq understand the importance of their mission there despite strains caused by repeated deployments, the senior U.S. military officer in Iraq told Senate Foreign Relations Committee members today. "There is no question that these multiple tours have put enormous strain on the force, absolutely," Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, told committee members.
Yet, current statistics indicate high re-enlistment rates among troops that have served multiple tours of duty in Iraq, Petraeus said.
Thanks to lessons learned, the training of American troops and education of military leaders heading to Iraq is much better than it was five years ago, when Saddam Hussein was removed by U.S. and coalition forces, Petraeus said.
The four-star general emphasized that he'd like to see overseas combat tours return to 12 month's duration as opposed to the current 15-month overseas duty tours.
However, "the troopers that we see in Iraq are doing a magnificent job," Petraeus said.
"Our troopers do an extraordinarily good job, despite the enormous strain that, clearly, they and their families have experienced over the course of the last number of years," the general said.
Today, U.S. and Iraqi security forces have their teeth firmly embedded in al-Qaida in Iraq's jugular, Petraeus told committee members, noting that much tough fighting remains ahead.
"We're staying after al-Qaida ... tenaciously; we are battling al-Qaida every day," the four-star general said.
"And, we have the forces that we need right now, I believe," Petraeus added.