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Senate confirms Petraeus as Afghanistan commander

General David Petraeus, the president's pick to take over from Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the new commander of the troubled war in Afghanistan, was approved by the Senate Wednesday.
Image: Gen. Petraeus Testifies At Senate Confirmation Hearing
U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus speaks during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill Tuesday.Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Senate on Wednesday unanimously confirmed Gen. David Petraeus as the new commander of the Afghanistan war, and President Barack Obama swiftly issued a statement saying Petraeus had his "full confidence."

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.

"Gen. Petraeus is a pivotal part of our effort to succeed in Afghanistan — and in our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida — and he has my full confidence," Obama said in a statement shortly after the Senate's 99-0 vote.

Obama said the Senate's quick action and Petraeus' "unrivaled experience will ensure we do not miss a beat in our strategy to break the Taliban's momentum and build Afghan capacity."

As U.S. Central Command chief, Petraeus was McChrystal's boss and already overseeing operations in Afghanistan. Petraeus' replacement at Central Command has not been announced.

Petraeus won overwhelming praise from both Republicans and Democrats, despite their disagreements on the U.S. policy toward Afghanistan.

"For those who doubt the president's desire and commitment to succeed in Afghanistan, his nomination of Gen. Petraeus to run this war should cause them to think twice," said Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"I know that Gen. Petraeus will do everything in his power to help us succeed in Afghanistan," McCain added.

During his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Petraeus left open the possibility of recommending that Obama delay his plans to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next summer.

"My sense is that the tough fighting will continue; indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months," Petraeus told the Senate panel. "As we take away the enemy's safe havens and reduce the enemy's freedom of action, the insurgents will fight back."

Petraeus also told senators that he may change the war's battlefield rules, designed to limit civilian casualties and improve support for U.S. and NATO forces fighting the Taliban-led insurgency. Some troops and congressional Republicans complain they handicap U.S. forces.

When Petraeus arrives in Kabul he will be working again with Staffan de Mistura, who was the top U.N. envoy in Iraq from November 2007 until July 2009 and has been the top U.N. representative in Afghanistan since March.

De Mistura praised Petraeus for his "substantial diplomatic and political sensitivities."

"I'm sure Gen. Petraeus, as he did in Iraq, will make special efforts to reduce to the minimum the civilian casualties in Afghanistan," de Mistura told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York after briefing the Security Council.