Petraeus Confirmation Expected Within Days
President Barack Obama’s choice of Gen. David Petraeus to take over command in Afghanistan from Gen. Stanley McChrystal was quickly embraced on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, with Senate confirmation expected within days.
Republicans quickly sang Petraeus’ praises and didn’t begrudge Obama’s decision to remove McChrystal as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan after the general and his team made disparaging comments about a number of senior administration officials in an interview with Rolling Stone. But they also remain concerned about Obama’s plan to begin bringing troops home next year.
Senate Armed Services ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) received a call from Obama five minutes before the president made the announcement that McChrystal was out and Petraeus, now head of the U.S. Central Command, was in.
“I appreciate the bravery and service of Gen. McChrystal, and I understand and respect the president’s decision concerning Gen. McChrystal,” McCain said, adding that he applauded the pick of Petraeus. But McCain said he remained worried that Obama has set a hard and fast withdrawal date for the mission rather than setting one that’s based on the conditions in Afghanistan.
“I do not believe that even Gen. Petraeus can succeed constrained by a date certain,” McCain said, adding that he intended to question Petraeus about the withdrawal date at a confirmation hearing he said could take place as early as Thursday or as late as Monday.
McCain also said the president should re-evaluate his civilian team, not just the military leadership, and said the president should consider appointing former Iraq Ambassador Ryan Crocker to go to Afghanistan alongside Petraeus.
Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan (N.D.) also predicted an easy and quick installment.
Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) agreed. “I don’t know if we could have found anyone better” to replace McChrystal, Kyl said.
House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) also gave Obama’s choice a thumbs-up.
“Gen. Petraeus is the best that we have,” he said. “The commander in chief must have confidence in his commanders in the field. It is time to move on and return our focus to waging the war in Afghanistan.”
House Armed Services ranking member Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) also praised the selection, saying it will ensure continuity in the war effort.
“In Iraq, he proved that a counterinsurgency campaign can work and is well-prepared to do the same in Afghanistan,” he said.
The Petraeus pick, however, will do little to ease concerns from anti-war, liberal Democrats, particularly in the House, who believe the war should wind down more quickly. Democratic leaders are trying to pass a war supplemental as soon as this week to pay for Obama’s Afghanistan policy, with billions in domestic spending riding piggyback.
John Stanton contributed to this report.