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Republicans say they want assurances that troops will only leave next year if security has improved. Mr. Obama has said troops will begin to leave, but the pace and size of the withdrawal will depend upon conditions.

The hearing was reminiscent of Gen. Petraeus‘ testimony in 2007 during the throes of the Iraq war, when public support for the military campaign was waning. On Tuesday, anti-war protesters in the audience quietly held up signs that read “New General, Old War” and “Stop Funding the War.”

But the mood among lawmakers was considerably more upbeat, with Republicans and Democrats alike praising Gen. Petraeus.

“You are an American hero, and I believe you will be quickly and overwhelmingly confirmed,” Mr. McCain said.

Mr. Levin urged Gen. Petraeus to send more Afghan security forces to the south, where U.S. troops are fighting a major offensive. If there are some 120,000 Afghan army troops, NATO can put more than the 7,250 Afghans in Kandahar now.

“Having the Afghan army in the lead in operations in Kandahar is the insurgency’s worst nightmare,” Mr. Levin said.

Gen. Petraeus is expected to continue Gen. McChrystal’s strategy in Afghanistan in large part because it is based on Gen. Petraeus‘ own ideas about beating an insurgency. That plan calls for increasing troops to bolster security, while limiting the use of firepower to win the support of the local population.

While congressional leaders praised Petraeus for his work in Iraq and his acumen for fighting a complex counterinsurgency, they also want to know how soon it will be before there’s good news on the war.