Senate set to OK Petraeus as US Afghan cdr

Petraeus faces a confirmation hearing in Senate on Tuesday likely to expose growing doubts about US effort in Afghanistan.

Washington: US General David Petraeus faces a confirmation hearing in the Senate on Tuesday expected to expose growing doubts about the U.S. effort in Afghanistan but broad support for the four-star general chosen to lead it.
One of the U.S. military`s biggest stars, Petraeus is widely credited with helping turn the tide in Iraq. President Barack Obama hopes he can do the same with the unpopular, nine-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Petraeus, 57, would replace General Stanley McChrystal, who was fired by Obama last week over comments made by him and his aides belittling the president and his aides and announced his retirement on Monday.

It was the biggest military shake-up of his presidency, and the second time the top Afghan commander was fired since Obama took office last year.

"This is Obama`s last chance," Arturo Munoz, a security analyst at the RAND Corporation, said of Petraeus.

If the general who helped pull Iraq back from the brink and oversaw development of the book on counter-insurgency strategy cannot win the war in Afghanistan, maybe no one can, Munoz added.

Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee to which Petraeus will testify, cautioned reporters a day ahead of the confirmation hearing that support for the war among Obama`s Democrats was starting to erode.

"On the Democratic side, there`s I would say solid support but there`s also the beginnings of some fraying of that support -- and that`s true in the base, as well as in the Congress," he told reporters.

He aimed to press Petraeus to increase the number of Afghan forces who are taking part in a campaign to secure the Taliban`s spiritual home of Kandahar, an operation seen as the linchpin of Obama`s war strategy.

After a slower-than-expected roll-out, that operation is expected to get fully under way in September and its perceived success or failure could affect Obama`s Democrats at the ballot box in November congressional elections.

Bureau Report

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