The top US army commander in Iraq says progress towards stability has been made and troop levels could be cut by next summer.
General David Petraeus has been giving testimony to the US Congress, an assessment seen as crucial for the shape of future strategy.
Proceedings did not get off to a good start, however, when the microphone system broke down.
But finally he was heard: “I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer… without jeopordising the security gains that we have fought so hard to achieve. Beyond that, while noting that the situation in Iraq remains complex, difficult and sometimes downright frustrating, I also believe that it is possible to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time, although doing so will be neither quick nor easy.”
Media reports in the US earlier said Petraeus would urge President Bush to put off decisions on major cuts in troop numbers for six months.