Confirmation Hearings Begin for Petraeus

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

General David Petraeus will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee in the first day of confirmation hearings which most believe will end with Petraeus taking over as commander of the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Petraeus will have to to convince the Senate, increasingly tired of the longest military effort in U.S. history, that he can turn around the war in Afghanistan and mend the military's relations with civilian leaders.

General Petraeus is set to replace General Stanley McChrystal as head of NATO forces in Afghanistan. McChrystal was fired last week by President Obama after he and his aides were quoted in a Rolling Stone magazine article making disparaging remarks about civilian members of the administration. McChrystal apologized for the remarks and resigned his post.

Petraeus is expected to continue McChrystal's strategy in Afghanistan in large part because it is based on Petraeus' own ideas about beating an insurgency. That plan calls for increasing military presence to 30,000 troops to bolster security, while limiting the use of firepower in order to win the support of the local population.

Although Petraeus is thought to be a shoe-in for the job, the Associated Press reports that congressional leaders will want to know how soon it will be before there's good news on the war.

"On the Democratic side, there is solid support. But there's also the beginnings of fraying of that support for the war," Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told the Associated Press.

Petraeus is seen as someone who could convince lawmakers the war is worth fighting and who could salvage relations between uniformed personnel fighting the war and their civilian counterparts.

The AP reports lawmakers will also question Petraeus about whether he will be as strict as McChrystal was about the military's rules of engagement. Some troops have charged that the restrictions on firepower have hurt their effectiveness and put them at risk. 

Democrats say they are willing to back the counter-insurgency strategy, as long as they start seeing results by the end of the year. They will also want assurances from Petraeus that troops will start leaving in July 2011, as Obama has promised.

Lawmakers expect Petraeus to be confirmed as early as this week.

Meanwhile on Monday, former Afghanistan commander General Stanley McChrystal announced his plans to retire from the Army. It is unclear whether McChrystal will be able to keep his rank of four-star general in retirement. Under Army regulations, generals need to serve at leaast three years in that rank to qualify for its retirement benefits. However, military and defense officials in Washington told the Associated Press on Monday that President Obama may use his power as commander in chief to allow McChrystal to keep his stars.

THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED TO REFLECT TODAY'S NEWS:  The Senate Armed Services Committee approved General Petraeus to be the next commander of the war in Afghanistan.

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