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Petraeus to win US Senate nod on Afghan war

General David Petraeus cruised today towards certain US Senate confirmation as commander of the faltering Afghan campaign, amid deep US public disquiet over the nearly nine-year-old war.

world Updated: Jun 30, 2010 21:11 IST

General David Petraeus cruised on Wednesday towards certain US Senate confirmation as commander of the faltering Afghan campaign, amid deep US public disquiet over the nearly nine-year-old war.

Senators were due to vote around midday (1600 GMT) to confirm Petraeus, who was expected to rally overwhelming support from both the President Barack Obama's Democratic allies and his Republican foes in the 100-seat chamber.

Petraeus, credited in Washington for dragging Iraq back from the brink of civil war with the troop "surge" strategy, warned anxious lawmakers on Tuesday that Western forces face "tough fighting" ahead against Taliban insurgents.

"Indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months," Petraeus, arguably the most revered military officer in the United States, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Petraeus also warned it would take "a number of years" before Afghan security forces could take over for NATO-led troops, a step US officials have described as a precondition for a complete withdrawal.

And in written testimony to the panel, he described the security situation as "tenuous, with instability fueled by a resilient and still-confident insurgency."

His confirmation vote came with the US public deeply split on the war, with some polls showing most Americans say it was not worth fighting, and lawmakers feuding bitterly over Obama's July 2011 deadline to begin the US withdrawal.

Democratic support for the conflict has ebbed so severely that Obama needs Republican backing to get an emergency war spending bill through the House of Representatives in a hard-fought vote expected this week.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has pressed lawmakers to approve the money quickly, and Petraeus said Tuesday that any further progress "will require that our work in Afghanistan is fully resourced."

The Senate vote came amid a new bout of national soul-searching over the war following Obama's decision to remove General Stanley McChrystal as his top officer in Afghanistan in the wake of a bombshell Rolling Stone magazine article in which the commander disparaged the White House and US allies.

With lawmakers concerned over a rift between military and civilian leaders in Kabul, Petraeus vowed to work closely with his civilian counterparts and also promised to review disputed rules restricting troops' use of firepower.

Petraeus promised the committee he would strive to forge "unity of effort" with diplomats and White House officials.

He recounted how during his time in Iraq, he worked "very closely" with the US ambassador in Baghdad and that he would do the same with the American ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, as well as NATO and UN envoys.