U.S. commander to appear before Congress

The general will deliver his assessment of the conflict and in his audience will be his future boss because the three presidential candidates, all senators, are on committees that will question the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

There is little doubt General Petraeus will ask for a pause in the troop drawdown after July to build on security successes, meaning 140,000 troops will remain in Iraq well beyond the summer.

"We have begun looking at alternative futures for beyond July," said Gen. David Petraeus.

That means there will be plenty of drama, especially given the senators Petraues will be facing.

"We can't afford to stay in Iraq, like John McCain said, for another 100 years," Senator Barack Obama said.

Presidential candidate John McCain has been Petraueus' most staunch advocate, which he made clear again Sunday.

"I believe this strategy has succeeded and will succeed and can succeed," Senator McCain said.

But the Democrats differ starkly with McCain on the war. And with increased fighting in Southern Iraq, the majority of the public disapproving of the war, and the strain on the troops reaching critical proportions, the Democrats will get a critical opportunity to make their case for bringing the troops home.

"This continues to be a disastrous foreign policy mistake," Senator Obama said.

"What is expected from our country in the face of the failure of the Iraqi government?" said Senator Clinton.

Some observers say General Petraeus has been skillful in the past at deflecting questions about how to end the conflict quickly. He is likely to employ the same approach in the coming week.

However, if anyone other than John McCain is elected president, the general probably will have to come up with some answers to those questions next January when the newly elected president takes office.

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