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Senate OKs Petraeus as chief of Afghanistan war

- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Senate on Wednesday unanimously confirmed Army Gen. David H. Petraeus as the new commander of the Afghanistan war, and President Obama swiftly issued a statement saying the general has his "full confidence."

Gen. Petraeus replaces Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, whose three-decade career ended in disgrace because of inflammatory remarks he and his aides made to Rolling Stone magazine.

"Gen. Petraeus is a pivotal part of our effort to succeed in Afghanistan — and in our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda — and he has my full confidence," Mr. Obama said in a statement shortly after the Senate's 99-0 vote.

Mr. Obama said the Senate's quick action and Gen. Petraeus' "unrivaled experience will ensure we do not miss a beat in our strategy to break the Taliban's momentum and build Afghan capacity."

As U.S. Central Command chief, Gen. Petraeus was Gen. McChrystal's boss and already overseeing operations in Afghanistan. Gen. Petraeus' replacement at Central Command has not been announced.

The general earned praise from both Republicans and Democrats, despite their disagreements on the U.S. policy toward Afghanistan.

"For those who doubt the president's desire and commitment to succeed in Afghanistan, his nomination of Gen. Petraeus to run this war should cause them to think twice," said Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I know that Gen. Petraeus will do everything in his power to help us succeed in Afghanistan."

During his confirmation hearing Tuesday, Gen. Petraeus left open the possibility of recommending that Mr. Obama delay his plans to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July 2011.

"My sense is that the tough fighting will continue; indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months," Gen. Petraeus told the Senate panel. "As we take away the enemy's safe havens and reduce the enemy's freedom of action, the insurgents will fight back."

Gen. Petraeus also told senators that he may change the war's battlefield rules, designed to limit civilian casualties and improve support for U.S. and NATO forces fighting the Taliban-led insurgency.

Some troops and congressional Republicans complain that the rules of engagement handicap U.S. forces.

When Gen. Petraeus arrives in Kabul, he will be working again with Staffan de Mistura, who was the top U.N. envoy in Iraq from November 2007 until July 2009 and has been the top U.N. representative in Afghanistan since March.

Mr. de Mistura praised Gen. Petraeus for his "substantial diplomatic and political sensitivities."

"I'm sure Gen. Petraeus, as he did in Iraq, will make special efforts to reduce to the minimum the civilian casualties in Afghanistan," Mr. de Mistura told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York after briefing the Security Council.

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