Gen. David Petraeus, currently testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee, has confirmed that he recommends a 45-day “consolidation and evaluation” after the last of the surge brigades are brought home by the end of July (bringing the total of American troops in Iraq somewhere around 130,000 140,000). After this 45-day period, he recommends commencing another open-ended process of assessment, and then, only if conditions on the ground allow it, will he consider another drawdown.

Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI): “If all goes well, what would be the approximate number of our troops there at the end of the year?

Petraeus: “Sir, I cant give you an estimate.”

Levin: “I think this open-ended pause you have recommended takes the pressure of Iraqi leaders to take responsibility for their own country.”

UPDATE: Sen. James Webb, (D-VA), in referring to the freeze recommended by Petraeus, wonders aloud how the military can sustain even pre-surge troop levels with all of the current issues over recruitment and retention, particularly among non-commissioned officers. “Keeping that level of forces in Iraq,” he said, suggesting, like military officers have testified recently, that the strain is prohibiting our ability to respond effectively in other places, like Afghanistan, “where are we going to get these people?”