Accessibility links

Breaking News

US Senate Confirms Petraeus as Top US Commander in Iraq

The U.S. Senate has unanimously confirmed Army General David Petraeus to be the next coalition commander in Iraq, succeeding General George Casey. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

The Democratic-led Senate confirmed General Petraeus' nomination after less than an hour of debate.

General Petraeus, who will be making his third tour of duty in Iraq, is the principal author of the Army's new counter-insurgency manual, and is one of the U.S. military's most experienced field commanders.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, praised the nominee ahead of the Senate vote.

"General Petraeus is professionally qualified for the command," he said. "He is widely recognized for the depth and breadth of his education, training and operational experience."

While praising Petraeus, Levin also took the opportunity to again criticize President Bush's decision to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq - a plan Petraeus will oversee.

"I am very deeply concerned about this new strategy, because I believe it is based on the wrong assumption that there is a military solution to a sectarian war, when, in fact, the only solution to a sectarian conflict, is for those groups to finally share power, share resources, resolve differences over autonomy that could end the violence," he said.

The top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner of Virginia, echoed the concerns.

"I am very concerned about the American GI being thrust in the middle of the violence that really has root causes that go back a thousand years between the divisions of thought between the Iraqis as to whether they are Sunnis or Shi'ia," he said.

Warner and Levin have each cosponsored separate nonbinding resolutions expressing opposition to the troop increase in Iraq, and each measure has bipartisan support. The Senate is expected to debate the resolutions as early as next week.

At the White House, President Bush met with General Petraeus as he prepares to return to Iraq, and defended his decision to increase troops.

"My instructions to you, General, is to get over to the zone as quickly as possible, and implement a plan that we believe will yield our goals," he said.

The president acknowledged the skepticism toward his plan among U.S. lawmakers. But he said some are condemning the plan before giving it a chance to work.

Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing this week that he believed the plan could work to restore order and to allow the Iraqi government to establish its authority. But he said the effort would not be easy.