Washington (CNN) - Gen. David Petraeus told his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday that "I wanted this job" as he explained his willingness to retire from the military after 37 years to become CIA director.
The 58-year-old commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan told the Senate Intelligence Committee he would lead the nation's largest intelligence agency fully independent of his ties to the military.
Petraeus acknowledged that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is the "leader of the intelligence community," and that the CIA plays a major role in U.S. intelligence gathering, but is part of a larger team.
He assured the committee that under his leadership, the CIA would be "relentless" in pursuing intelligence needed by the government, and said that serving as director of dedicated CIA personnel "would be a tremendous honor and a tremendous privilege."
Petraeus assumed command of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan on July 4, 2010, after serving for more than 20 months as commander of United States Central Command. He previously commanded multinational forces in Iraq, leading the so-called "surge."
During his time commanding the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, he oversaw the development of the Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual, and his experience in working with the CIA on counterinsurgency efforts in the field was cited as a reason for his nomination by President Barack Obama to succeed Leon Panetta, who will take over as defense secretary when Robert Gates steps down at the end of June.
Committee members praised Petraeus for his military successes and indicated no opposition existed to his nomination. If confirmed, Petraeus would continue overseeing the Afghanistan mission during the first phase of troop withdrawals beginning in July before retiring his commission to be a civilian head of the nation's top spy agency.