Envoy: Despite surge in violence, withdrawal timetable is holding

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. ambassador to Iraq told Congress on Thursday that despite a recent rash of insurgent attacks, the U.S. is on track to removing all its combat forces by next August. "We are holding to this timetable," Christopher Hill told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in his first congressional testimony since taking over the top U.S. diplomatic post in Baghdad in April.

The envoy faced skepticism, however, from lawmakers concerned that despite a general downward trend in violence, Iraqi forces may not be ready next year to maintain security amid declining U.S. support.

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., addressing Hill at a separate hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was more concerned about how a U.S. withdrawal is carried out than its exact timing.

"For our own part, serious questions remain about our policies going forward and our strategy," Lugar said. "The president and the vice president continue to speak about troops coming home at the end of 2011, but we do not have a clear understanding of how that withdrawal will occur under optimal conditions, much less worst-case scenarios."

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