WASHINGTON – In his first public comments unrelated to his arrest in an airport sex sting, Sen. Larry Craig said the United States is making progress in Iraq because of a troop escalation overseen by Gen. David Petraeus.
In a statement from Boise, where he has remained since his arrest became public Aug. 27, the Idaho Republican said he was encouraged by congressional testimony from Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
Craig was arrested June 11 by a Minneapolis airport police officer in a men's room sex sting. The three-term Republican senator pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, and in exchange, prosecutors dropped a gross misdemeanor charge of interference with privacy.
Craig has since called the guilty plea a mistake and filed a request Monday to withdraw the plea. A hearing on that request will be heard in Minnesota on Sept. 26, just four days before Craig has said he will step down from his Senate seat.
A spokesman for Craig has said he unlikely to try to finish his third term unless a court moves quickly to overturn Craig's conviction. Craig has been under intense pressure from fellow Republicans to resign.
During two days of testimony this week, Petraeus and Crocker said the United States is making progress in Iraq and urged lawmakers to continue the Bush administration's policies there.
"Unfortunately, many were quick to prejudge the surge, as well as the testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker," Craig said in the two-paragraph statement, released late Tuesday night by his Boise office.
"However, I believe their testimony told a positive story. Our soldiers are making progress on the ground to provide breathing room for the Iraqi government, and we have seen a significant decrease in violence across the country, and most importantly, in Baghdad. That being said, the Iraqi government must stand up and prove to their people that they can govern and secure their country from violence."
The statement did not mention Craig's arrest.
Senate Republicans announced earlier this week that Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., will replace Craig as the Veterans' Affairs Committee's top Republican.