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Gen. David Petraeus nod reopens issue of withdrawal deadline

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.

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Gen. David Petraeus speaks with Senate Armed Services Committee members John McCain (l.) and Joseph Lieberman (c.) before testifying on the situation in Afghanistan on Capitol Hill June 16.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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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.

IN PICTURES: Controversial American generals

“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.

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