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Petraeus 'Best Hope' for Afghanistan, but War Issues Looming on Capitol Hill

5 years ago
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Members of Congress broadly praised President Obama's decision Wednesday to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus as the top commander in Afghanistan, but the agreement on Petraeus could not mask the serious underlying tensions in Congress over the future of the war itself.

From the timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops to the civilian American leadership in Afghanistan to questions about the commitment to the mission by the administration, senators and House members used their reaction to Petreaus' new command as a proxy battle over how America should fight the war and when we should end the mission altogether.

"I continue to have strong concerns about our misguided policy in Afghanistan," said Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), a member of the crucial Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who agreed that the president was right to accept McChrystal's resignation after his disparaging comments to a Rolling Stone magazine became public.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the top Republican on the Armed Services committee, welcomed Petraeus' appointment, but outlined his concerns over the handling of the war, especially the president's commitment to begin withdrawing troops one year from now.

"The concern that we have is...exactly what is meant by withdrawal in the middle of 2011, whether that is, quote, 'etched in stone,' as the president's spokesperson, Mr. Gibbs, stated or whether it will be conditions-based," McCain said.

More Stanley McChrystal Coverage:

- McChrystal Relieved of Duty; Petraeus to Take Command in Afghanistan
- David Wood: Petraeus Takes Command as Afghan War Problems Escalate
- Jill Lawrence: Obama's Petraeus Move: Good Management -- Hold the Psychoanalysis
- Transcript of President Obama's Remarks on Gen. Stanley McChrystal
- Walter Shapiro: McChrystal, Afghanistan, and the Era of Foreign Policy Austerity
- David Corn: Will a McChrystal Dismissal Be Bad News for War Critics?

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called Petraeus, "our best hope," but said it is the civilian leadership from the State Department -- not the military leadership -- that needs to go now. "The civilian side is, in my view, completely dysfunctional," Graham said. "The relationship between the civilian leadership and President Karzai has to be changed and repaired. This is a chance to start over."

Without changes, Graham warned, "We're going to lose a war we can't afford to lose."

While Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) praised the choice of Petraeus, he also called out members of the Obama political operation for press leaks and public criticism of the Pentagon. "There has been some -- some unnecessary and, I think, harmful public discussion here in the U.S. about central points of our strategy in Afghanistan, including what the meaning is of what...the U.S. troops in Afghanistan will begin to do or won't begin to do in July of 2011."

Although Graham, Lieberman and McCain had tough criticism for the administration, all of the senators agreed that the president had no choice but to change commanders after learning about McChrystal's criticism of his team. "I am glad the president made this decision. And some other officers need to be looked at, and they need to be replaced," Graham said.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold confirmation hearing for Petraeus as soon as possible, but no later than Tuesday, June 29th.

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We need to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. Obama's deadline is good, because it tells Karzai exactly how long he has to stabilize his regime. It's a damn shame we ever sent our boys there to kill and be killed. Wether or not Afghanistan has a nice government or a nasty, radical-islamic kookdom, makes no difference at all to US security, and the people who claim otherwise are stupid or lying. The 911 terrorists didn't need Afghanistan for training or planning. A few guys in a room, anywhere in the world, could have planned it. The only training needed was done here in the US, that is learning to fly a big commercial airliner. The source of our terror risk is radical Islam, not any particular country. The best defense is to make it very difficult for anyone from a Muslim-dominant country to get a Visa to come here.

June 30 2010 at 7:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rob & Kathy

That's funny. During the Iraq war liberals were calling Gen. Petraeus, "Betrayus"...

June 26 2010 at 6:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wars are fought with WEAPONS, talk, talk and more talk will NOT win a WAR!

June 26 2010 at 6:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the last thing obama needs now is trouble in the middle east that will for sure end his presidency and not on a good note.

June 24 2010 at 8:26 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Help the Afghans get the minerals out .Then we get out.

Put the warlords in charge of the business like we did in Japan after WW11.

June 24 2010 at 11:55 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

First neither Stan McChrystal's now that he is relieved or Dave Petraeus will resolve the conflict in Afghanistan. Neither were combat commanders and neither fully understood the ramifications of how and why conflicts like Afghanistan surface. Since I knew both of these gentlemen quite well, I submit one of two things will occur. Dave Petraeus will meet the goal of pulling our troops out in July 2011 but Afghanistan will still remain a powderkeg for the future. The same situation is currently occurring in Iraq, which is slowly turning a 180 and will eventually revert back to its old tribal ways very shortly. The other piece is Dave will ask for more troops for the conflict and that will be a politically untenable position for our President. A clear and achievable course of action should be established to enable us to withdraw safely and Afghanistan to assume its own responsibilities.

June 24 2010 at 11:52 AM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply

Israel's Foreign Minister (also known as US Senator Joe Lieberman) is the AIPAC point man to have the US military provide defense for Israel. At what cost? Wake up America, the US Congress has been captured with pro-war Israelis. Our troops are fighting Israel's wars. Can anyone else see them?

June 24 2010 at 11:32 AM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply

Yep, hear the Taliban are buying Rolling Stone Magazines by the thousands! They are the right choice according to Taliban Spokesman Ali.... and the perfect place to have high resolution pictures of beheadings, recruiting posters and how to beat your wife articles and so forth.

Taliban Spokesman are also reported to say: "The pen is mightier than the sword who woulda thunk one little article could down America's best General its to much to believe. We think we can win the war with magazines like Rolling Stone. They are better than road side bombs"

An alliance with Al Jezera network is also belived to be in the offing for the esteemed allies of Al Queda and the Taliban. Rolling Stone magazine the "inky" warriors of Allah. May they and their little "articles" enjoy the 70 virgins awaiting them.

June 24 2010 at 11:22 AM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
Harry Piels

If the general knows how to pay down a mountain of debt( Mt. Everest) he should get into politics.

June 24 2010 at 11:19 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It is time that the civilians pull out of any Afghanistan discussions and leave the military alone in the prosecution of the war. There are times when they are necessary but now is not the time. Every time they open their collective mouths about the operations in Afghanistan they screw up some military operation. Putting a time table for the military to complete a mission might be good but you have to keep your mouth shut to the public about the time table. The last I heard giving aid and comfort to the enemy was called treason.

There was a time during World War II that G-2 stopped sending military information to the White House because they started finding presidental breifings in the waste baskets instead of being destoryed as was the policy at the time. It appears now that the inforamtion isn't being thrown out carelessly into the waste cans of the White House and State Department but being made front page NEWS because some can't keep they mouths shut.

June 24 2010 at 10:55 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

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