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Senate confirms Petraeus as Afghan war chief

Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais

WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Wednesday unanimously confirmed Gen. David Petraeus as the new 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. 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 President Barack Obama delay his plans to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next summer.

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.

"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."