WASHINGTON>>- The Senate has unanimously confirmed Gen. David Petraeus as the next commander of the Afghanistan war. The vote was 99-0.
Petraeus replaces Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whose three-decade career ended in disgrace because of inflammatory remarks he and his aides made to Rolling Stone magazine.
As U.S. Central Command chief, Petraeus was McChrystal’s boss and already overseeing operations in Afghanistan. His replacement at Central Command has not been announced.
The Senate vote came a day after Petraeus told his confirmation hearing that he is concerned the U.S. military’s rules of engagement in the war are too restrictive and are putting American forces at risk.
“I am keenly aware of concerns by some of our troopers,” Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said he discussed the issue with President Hamid Karzai and other top Afghan officials “and they are in full agreement with me.”
Petraeus will lead a force of 142,000 U.S. and allied troops who are in the midst of an offensive to try to push the Taliban out of their stronghold in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan.
The Obama administration has described its war strategy as an effort to break the momentum of the insurgency while building up the Afghan government’s capacity to extend security and effective governance across the country.
Petraeus said the Taliban, even with their losses, “continue to show an ability to adapt and respond” to changes in tactics by the allies. The 57-year-old general has already been closely involved in the war as head of U.S. Central Command, whose area of responsibility includes the Middle East and Central Asia.
Military commanders and top national security officials are planning to review the progress of the Afghanistan campaign at the end of the year. Obama has set July 2011 as the target for the start of a drawdown of U.S. forces if security conditions permit.
“It is going to be a number of years before Afghan forces can truly handle the security tasks in Afghanistan on their own,” Petraeus said yesterday. “The commitment to Afghanistan is necessarily, therefore, an enduring one.”