US Senate confirms Petraeus as CIA chief

David Petraeus has won wide acclaim as commander of war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Washington: The US Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly confirmed General David Petraeus, who won wide acclaim as commander of war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

Lawmakers voted 94-0 to approve the nomination of Petraeus to succeed outgoing CIA director Leon Panetta, whose own confirmation to take over for retiring US Defence Secretary Robert Gates sailed through 100-0 last week.

The two ballots amounted to a strong show of confidence in President Barack Obama`s reshuffling of his national security team, even though Petraeus himself expressed misgivings last week about a coming troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The general told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he disagreed with Obama`s decision and had favoured a more modest timeline for the drawdown -- but told lawmakers it was his duty to carry out his commander-in-chief`s strategy.

Asked by Democratic Senator Carl Levin if he was prepared to resign over war policy, Petraeus said: "I don`t think it`s the place for the commander to consider that kind of step unless you are in a very, very dire situation."

"I feel actually quite strongly about this. Our troopers don`t get to quit. And I don`t think commanders should contemplate that as any kind of idle action," the four-star general said, his voice rising.

Petraeus spoke a day after Obama announced plans to withdraw 33,000 surge troops by the end of September 2012, with the first 10,000 due to depart this year.

In the fierce debate over harsh US interrogation techniques, widely seen as torture, Petraeus said last week "humane" approaches are generally sufficient to gain critical intelligence from captured extremists.

But he told the Senate Intelligence Committee that lawmakers who have banned practices such as the controlled drowning known as waterboarding that they may want to consider tougher measures in so-called "ticking time bomb" situations

"There should be a process if, indeed, there is going to be something more than, again, the normal techniques employed in such a case," he said.

He also said he hoped the CIA would not be "totally captured" by Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and efforts against al Qaeda around the world.

The agency should also focus on "the next developments in the Arab Spring”, emerging cyber threats, China`s rise, and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Bureau Report

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