Gen. David Petraeus is likely to win Senate confirmation as the top US commander in Afghanistan. But the hearing could reopen a debate on strategy, especially the 2011 planned troop drawdown.
In a rare show of support from both sides of the aisle, lawmakers today backed President Obama’s decision to remove Gen. Stanley McChrystal as top US commander in Afghanistan – and predicted a swift confirmation of Gen. David Petraeus to replace him.
But the Senate confirmation hearing, expected early next week, sets up a high-profile venue to reopen a debate on the strategy to end the nine-year war, notably President Obama’s commitment to begin a drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan by July 2011.
The president and top Senate Democrats today dismissed concerns that policy disagreements were a factor in the decision to relieve General McChrystal.
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“I don't make this decision based on any difference in policy with General McChrystal, as we are in full agreement about our strategy. Nor do I make this decision out of any sense of personal insult,” said President Obama in a Rose Garden statement.
“The disagreement is over personnel and personalities, not over policy. That’s important,” said Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, in an afternoon press briefing.
But critics say that the president’s July 2011 deadline is, in fact, ambiguous and could (or must) shift, depending on the situation on the ground.