Washington (CNN) - Gen. David Petraeus told CNN on Thursday that he supports President Barack Obama's July 2011 deadline to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a key point of contention between the president and many of his Republican critics in Congress.
Petraeus - tapped to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the U.S. commander in Afghanistan - also expressed his respect and appreciation for McChrystal's work and said the circumstances surrounding the change in command are "sad."
McChrystal was relieved of duty on Wednesday after he and his staff made comments in a Rolling Stone magazine article that appear to mock top Obama administration officials.
Petraeus's remarks to CNN's Dana Bash and Ted Barrett were his first public comments since being chosen as the new U.S. military chief for the Afghan conflict. The Senate Armed Services Committee is set to begin confirmation hearings for Petraeus next Tuesday morning.
"I support the president's policy, and I will also provide the best professional military advice as we conduct assessments," Petraeus said.
The general said it's a privilege to serve. "It's obviously a hugely important mission," he said.
"It's very sad that I have to assume it in this manner," he added. "We obviously all have enormous respect and gratitude to Gen. McChrystal for all that he did. He's played a key role in helping get the inputs right in Afghanistan."
Petraeus declined to immediately say whether he would fire the unnamed officers on McChrystal's staff quoted by Rolling Stone making disparaging remarks about civilian authorities.
"You have to understand, an officer - a commander - cannot prejudge a situation because that crosses the line into what is called 'command influence,'" he said. "So we'll need to sort out the facts and take the appropriate action once we've done that."
The decision to replace McChrystal with Petraeus was hotly debated by top administration officials. Defense Secretary Robert Gates backed keeping McChrystal on the job because he was vital to the war effort in Afghanistan, but he was overruled, a senior Pentagon official told CNN. The official has direct knowledge of the events but declined to be identified because of the internal administration discussions.
The country's top U.S. military official - Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen - said Thursday he backs the president's decision to remove McChrystal from the Afghan command post. "I'm very supportive of the president's decision," he said.
Military officers on the ground in Afghanistan, meanwhile, are stressing Obama's assertion that the switch in leadership does not represent a change in policy.
"We remain absolutely focused on our tasks and the operational tempo will not miss a beat," Lt. Gen. Sir Nick Parker said Thursday. Parker, who is British, has assumed command pending approval of Petraeus' nomination by Congress.
Petraeus, who also led the U.S. military surge in Iraq, expressed gratitude towards his wife Thursday when asked about her feelings on his new assignment
"She's a great wife, army daughter and army mother," he said.
– CNN's Ted Barrett, Dana Bash, Barbara Starr and Alan Silverleib contributed to this story
Another thing. Gen. McChrystal knew what he was doing. the man wanted out of this lunacy. Do you really think he said all that and thought it wouldn't be published??? He knew.
Good to hear.
of course he does..... he's not allowed to disagree.... remember?
He saw what happens to anyone who speaks out against the inept, corrupt "annointed one." He doesn't want to end up like everyone else that has spoken out against this union controlled toad we have as president.
Is President Obama's withdrawal in July 2011 his only hope for the 2012 election? I think it is his gamble so he has something positive to say on the campaign trail. That he actual kept a promise to end the war. After the election, he will ramp it back up.
It will be interesting to see the flip flops of all those who opposed and bad mouthed Gen Petraeus in the past now will have to support him.
HURRAY–Finally a general who dosen't want to fight forever. One that is compassinate and wants to do the right thing. Unlike George Bush.
I am glad that General Petraeus is not listing to mr. Vietnam vet mcnasty who had to put in his two cents (and I mean two cheap cents) in last night.
AZ doesn't need mcnasty but hayworth (I listened to him last night on a program) is a certifiable ring wing nutso!!!
At least mcnasty was moderate until 2008 when he turned the corner to the right and fell off the cliff.
Bush fired all the real generals,what we have now are leftover boyscouts.
"I was just thinking this morning about how many liberal media outlets will bury this story or try and put sugar on it because its about a democrat that President Bush beat in 2000."
Playing fast and loose with the definition of "thinking" again, eh?
Let's see how Petreaus feels about the withdrawal deadline this time next year. Something tells me his opinion will be wildly different and we'll be looking at a fire fight between Obama and his generals- or Obama will just bend over and take it from the military brass again and we'll still be stuck in Afghanistan.
Is it wise for the Gen. Petraeusto say he doesn't support the withdrawal deadline?
During the presidential campaign, Obama had little or no respect for the achievements of Gen. David Petraeus.
Win or lose the war, but it’s not wise for generals to ruin their long illustrious career making conflicting statements.
Afghanistan has not had a functioning central government in at least 30 years and maybe much longer than that. I personally don't believe that the US or any other country can bring stability to this lawless country if we stayed for another 30 years. The Soviet Union learned that lesson in the 80's, and the US is learning it now.
Gen. David Petraeus told CNN on Thursday that he supports President Barack Obama's July 2011 deadline to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a key point of contention between the president and many of his Republican critics in Congress
Thank God someone from the right has the wisdom to realize this war needs closure.
Thank you, General Petraeus, for helping to make this a reality.
It's been 11 long years. Bring the troops home.
Petraeus and McChyrstal along wth the rest of our military men and women are our bravest even though mistakes have been made. I STRONGLY SUPPORT OF MILITARY FOR ALL THAT THEY GIVE THRU LIFE AND THRU DEATH.
Queue the frothing right doing the hypocrite dance.
They will be calling for his head now that Petraeus has backed a deadline.
Remember when the Republicans were trying to draft this guy to run for President? I do.
we need to put the folk that started this mess on the front lines, not in charge but as infantrymen with the rank no higher than E-4
I remember a retired general comparing McChrystal and his inability to hold his tongue to a battalion commander leading 500 soldiers. He is a great warrior that will serve best working with soldiers, not with diplomats and politicians. Petraeus, on the other hand, is a polished professional who is comfortable in circles where general officers are expected to function. Excellent choice by the President. I hope this incident will force President Obama to assert himself more. Working behind the scenes may be effective but allows Republicans to paint you as weak. That is the way their bankrupt party does business.