Petraeus to make rounds on Capitol Hill

The head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, will make the rounds in Congress this week — drawing more congressional attention to the war in Afghanistan and the troop-withdrawal process from Iraq.

Petraeus will speak to the Appropriations Defense subcommittee behind closed doors on Tuesday and be part of public hearings before the Senate and House Armed Services committees on Wednesday.

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The Army General, who was propelled into the spotlight for overseeing the troop surge in Iraq almost two years ago, will make a low-key entrance to testify on war operations in the Afghanistan region and Iraq. The most popular general of his generation, Petraeus has been keeping a low public profile since he took over as the head of U.S. Central Command .

The head of the Special Operations Command and U.S. Transportation Command will also testify in both chambers likely fielding questions about operations in Afghanistan both on the military side and from a resource perspective since supplying the military in Afghanistan –a country with almost non-existent infrastructure--poses its own obstacles that the Pentagon has been working feverishly to surmount.

With the focus shifted on Afghanistan, the House Armed Services Committee is also going to examine force protection equipment for the troops deploying there. The committee will also look at force protection equipment for Iraq as well. The signature weapon threatening U.S. forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq is the improvised explosive device (IED), or plainly the roadside bomb.

Lt. Gen. Michael Oates, who heads the Pentagon’s effort to defeat the IED threat study and defeat the IED threat, told defense bloggers on Friday that the threat of these bombs is expanding in Afghanistan, according to Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent.

“It’s almost doubled in volume, the number of IEDs in the last year, the number of casualties,” Oates said, according to the Washington Independent.

The hearings this week come just days after the House defeated Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s (D-Ohio) resolution to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The hearings likely will serve as the basis for the lawmakers’ decisions on approving the remainder of the 2010 emergency war supplemental and fully funding the needs of the military for fiscal 2011. Pentagon officials said they wanted the $33 billion supplemental request approved by the end of May.  Congress is expected to vote on the supplemental in mid-April.