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Key Senate Committee Approves Petraeus to Lead Afghan War

US Gen David Petraeus appears before the US Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing to become the head of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan on Capitol Hill, 29 Jun 2010

The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday voted in favor of General David Petraeus to become the next commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The committee vote paves the way for Petraeus' full Senate confirmation, which is expected by the end of this week.

During his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the committee, Petraeus warned of a tough fight ahead as troops battle the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

He said while there have been signs of progress, troops face a strong insurgency while having to train Afghan forces and build up local governance.

Petraeus would replace General Stanley McChrystal, who resigned last week after he and his aides made disparaging remarks about Obama administration officials.

During Tuesday's hearing, committee chair Senator Carl Levin questioned the capability of Afghan security forces to take over security for their country. He cited a U.S. government audit released Monday that said the ability of Afghan troops to operate independently had been overstated.

U.S. lawmakers also brought up President Barack Obama's timeline to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan in July of 2011.

Petraeus said Tuesday he supports President Obama's strategy in Afghanistan and that the deadline marks the start of a process that will be determined by the situation on the ground. He said it will take a number of years before Afghan forces can completely take control of security and that the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan will remain.

If confirmed, the general said he would review how the war was being waged, including the rules of engagement that some say put troops at unnecessary risk in an effort to protect Afghan civilians.

Petraeus also pledged to work closely with his civilian counterparts in the Obama administration.

The general, who has been head of U.S. Central Command, is widely credited for helping turn the war in Iraq around by implementing a counter-insurgency strategy that is now being used as a framework for the current effort in Afghanistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.