by Mark Silva
Gen. David Petraeus' return engagement on Capitol Hill next week will be of particular interest to a few of the senators on committees hearing his testimony: Sens. McCain, Obama and Clinton.
McCain, as the AP's Liz Sidoti points out today, "will get a chance to argue that last year's U.S. troop buildup has been a success and withdrawal would be a mistake. (and) Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama will have an opportunity to ask why the United States is still fighting more than five years after the invasion. ''
All three presidential contenders serve on Senate committees that will hear and question the military commander in Iraq on Tuesday. McCain and Clinton serve on the Armed Services Committee; Obama on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Petraeus will arrive on Tuesday at a time when the administration is shaping its war strategy for the months ahead -- presumably to conform with Petraeus' call for a pause in the drawdown of troops while the miltiary assesses the lasting effects of the "surge'' that President Bush ordered last year.
With a presidential election seven months away, Bush's successor will inherit a war that has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 U.S. military men and women in five years.
"Overall, it's a remarkable success — overall with significant challenges ahead," McCain told The Associated Press recently as he predicted what Petraeus will say about the troop-increase strategy and what he says he believes himself — even though the year of the buildup was the bloodiest yet for U.S. troops.
"It is time to end this war as quickly and responsibly as possible," Clinton, a New York Democrat, said recently.
Obama, an Illinois Democrat, also wants a quick end to the war. On Friday, he said: ""We still don't have a good answer to the question posed by Sen. (John) Warner the last time Gen. Petraeus appeared: How has this effort in Iraq made us safer and how do we expect it will make us safer in the long run?"