On Tuesday morning, General David Petraeus faced the Senate Armed
Services Committee to confirm his nomination by President Obama
to replace now-resigned General Stanley McChrystal as the top U.S.
commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus's hearing was not especially contested
as he remains enormously popular with both parties in Congress for his
handling of Iraq. At one point during the hearing, Senator John McCain
even took time to praise Petraeus's wife for going on a blind date with
her future husband in 1976. But Petraeus, by articulating his strategy
and answering questions from Senators, made some news about how he will
lead in Afghanistan. Here are the big take-aways.
- Relaxed Rules of Engagement Wired's Spencer Ackerman writes, "In his opening statement, Petraeus vowed to 'look very hard' at the directives Gen. Stanley McChrystal put in place to cut down on civilian casualties." McChrystal's policies included tight restrictions on air strikes and artillery, which he worried were counterproductive because they caused too many civilian casualties. "Petraeus, as you'd expect, publicly supports that mission to the hilt. ... But that doesn't mean he'll continue McChrystal's rules as written." Ackerman sees "a pretty strong indication that a change is in the works when Petraeus gets to Kabul."
- We'll Be There Long After July 2011 Drawdown Date Congressional Quarterly's Craig Crawford sighs, "You can hear the Afghan exit deadline crumbling in Gen. David Petraeus' testimony today on Capitol Hill. The President's timetable to begin leaving next summer is 'the beginning of a process, not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits,' he said. ... He vowed that our commitment there would be an 'enduring one.' He called the July 2011 deadline a 'transition phase.' ... This all sounds like more fighting and a longer war."
- Reserved Right to Slow or Stop Drawdown The Chicago Tribune's David Cloud writes, "Petraeus emphasized his support for the deadline set by President Barack Obama, but he also reiterated that that pace of any U.S. withdrawals next years should be 'responsible' and determined by conditions on the ground at the time. His careful explanation reflects the ongoing tension between the military, which is concerned that too rapid a withdrawal next year could jeopardize efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, and some within the Obama administration, who favor a rapid drawdown and a shift to a smaller military footprint."
- Larger Afghan National Security Force The Wall Street Journal's Peter Spiegal explains that McChrystal initially wanted to set a goal of 400,000 Afghan soldiers and police, but Obama revised that down to 305,600. But Petraeus says he will "reassess" Obama's number. "While the exact numbers needed are still being determined, I am not wiling to say the currently approved strength of 305,600 will provide sufficient," Petraeus wrote. Spiegel writes, "He added that within the first three to four months of his command, he will make his own assessment of "the need for any increase" and recommend any changes up the chain of command."
- Building Local Governance, Investment The Washington Independent's Daphne Eviatar tweets:
Petraeus: Key to Afghan security is re-establishment of viable local government
Petraeus: Reintegration process Karzai approved for Taliban is critical to overall effort in Afghanistan
Petraeus hoping venture capitalists will invest in Afghan's natural resources>>let's hope the govt is cleaned up first
- Big Role for Pakistan? Wired's Noah Shachtman tweets:
Petraeus: You all can hate on the Pakistani military, but they've sacrificed against al-Q & the TTP #P4ISR
Oy, this metaphor... Petraeus: Paks know they cant have poisonous snakes in their backyard & they'll only bite the neighbors kids #P4ISR