June 24th, 2010
11:03 AM ET
11 years ago

Petraeus backs July 2011 Afghan withdrawal deadline

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/24/art.petraeus.0624p.gi.jpg caption=" 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."]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

Filed under: Afghanistan • David Petraeus
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. kimberly

    Of course he does, most do! OH except Mccain, who is 150 years old and irrelivant

    June 24, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  2. Average American

    I have the highest level of respect for General Petraeus! He is a hero and a true patriot! I thank him for taking this sacrifice for the good of all Americans! Agreeing to take a step down, leave his family again, and do the clean up work for a disgraced general is an honorable thing! This is the type of person we should hold up as a role model.

    June 24, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I say remove all the women from the country so there will be no pro-creation. Then take out any resistance of any sort. I'm so tired of this war. I wish we could just nuke the darn place and get it over with.

    June 24, 2010 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  4. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    Time for John McCain to trash Patraeus, as McWar wants us to be there for the next 100 years.

    June 24, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  5. sonny chapman

    Nine years or ninety years, Afghanistan will still be Afghanistan. The U.S. Military ain't gonna change that. America needs to maintain a Predator Drone squad along the Pakistan border to make life miserable for those who attacked us on 9-11; EL QUIDA ! Which happened, using the language of Liz Cheney, on Bush/Cheney's watch!

    June 24, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  6. thor

    Why can't we start the withdrawal now? What a complete waste of resources this war has been.Too many of our young soldiers have died so this president can thump his chest !!!

    June 24, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  7. Suki

    What else could he say? DUH

    June 24, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  8. Fair is Fair

    Sir, please be careful.

    You WILL tow the left-wing line, or moveon.org and their ilk will be taking out full-page ads in the New York Times calling you General "Betray-us"... AGAIN... like they did when you served under the previous commander in chief.

    June 24, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  9. The Watcher

    Thanks god, We finally got a rational person who don't think only war, war, war .
    I know lot of people are going to be very mad, but you know what, who cares!!!!
    Let's our boy come back home.

    June 24, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  10. Duck Fallas

    Petreus supports a deadline for BEGINNING the withdrawal? He obviously knows nothing about military strategy. He should consult Sarah Palin and Michael Steele before he says anything so stupid.

    June 24, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  11. Moderate

    He supports it because he's smarter than you on the right. He knows no nation has ever had a successful occupation of that country – ever. Your president knows that too! By the way, he's smarter than you will ever be!

    June 24, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  12. Eric

    Administration message to Taliban and AQ:
    Hang in there fellas, you've almost won against the "great satan."
    You only need to run out the 2011 buzzer and we'll take our team and go home.

    By the way guys, what do you think of our new kinder, gentler mother-may-I rules of engagement? GARE-ON-TEED to lose a war, or your money back.


    June 24, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  13. phoenix86

    Petraeus will support Obama in public, he is a soldier. However, he knows that Obama's timeline is a losing proposition and that the war is lost.

    Congratualations to Obama for another US defeat. That makes 4 in a row for you.

    June 24, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  14. Samantha

    I watched the Newshour on PBS last night. As usual it was packed with intellectuals, academics and think tankers mostly liberal but one or two more conservative, one who served in the Bush Administration. Nobody supported the July 2011 deadline. Not the most liberal from the Carnegie Endowment, not the academics from Johns Hopkins – not one person.

    Either Petraeus is really a rogue, or he is bowing down to Obama in the wake of the McChrystal flap. Beware of what you bow down to. I recall a commentator quoting Shakespeare after Nixon's top staffers went sent to jail for Watergate (and he wasn't):
    "Had I but serv'd my God with half the zeal I serv'd my king, he would not in mine age
    Have left me naked to mine enemies."
    – William Shakespeare

    June 24, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  15. Jim

    David Petraeus has been set up for failure in Afghanistan by this president.The general is one of our best but our policy is the problem.Obama thinks that the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq are the same and because Petraeus was sucessful there he will also be in Afghanistan.Obama in the end will blame the failure on Petraeus just like he does with all his failures,it's someone else's fault.We need to get our soldiers home now,too many have died.

    June 24, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  16. Slick William

    In yesterdays sacking of Gen. McChrystal, President Obama took full responsibility for a failing military strategy that obviously McChrystal could no longer stomach. So in the face of a potential failure the Administration is sticking to pulling out in July, I'm fine with that but why wait for another year for some more of our finest to be killed? Goodbye Jimmy Carter and Hello Lyndon Johnson!

    Meanwhile, anyone seen any jobs being created, other than a tee time taker or party caterer?

    June 24, 2010 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  17. Proud member of Global Zero

    Thank g-d! It is time to bring all of our troops home. They and their families have had enough....as a matter of fact, SO HAVE I.

    June 24, 2010 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  18. doug

    Obama's no vote on denouncing the DEMOCRAT hate fest calling this great man "Betray Us" was a sign that Obama is a puppet of the extremist far left that wants nothing more than to execute every American who doesn't vote Democrat.

    June 24, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  19. Petraeus is now YES man for Obama

    Any General who would openly agree with a date certain for withdrawal from the battlefield in Afghanistan is no longer a military commander, but a political mouthpiece and someone who has admitted defeat. This statement and Obama's policy spells the end for Afghanistan -– we will retire in defeat like Vietnam and Korea - the country will go into civil war - and this withdrawaL will take place (or rather start to take place) just before Obama starts his reelection campaign in earnest - In this manner the havoc that will follow our retreat will happen after the PresidentiaL ELECTION This is now all about politics and elections -- General McChrystal saw this coming, and he shot himself out of Dodge -- Good for him

    June 24, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  20. Fed up

    He better be Obama's puppet and say whatever Obama wants....Dictator Obama needs to show he is the boss, even though he is clueless and doesn't seem to understand you can't put deadlines on wars.

    June 24, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  21. TaterSalad

    Obama and his liberal/progressives are all a bunch of pure hypocrites. It was just over a year ago that these same people were mad-mouthing General Petraeus and calling him Be-tray-us right here on this website (dennycrane and others) and now he is Obama's savior so this is "all right" now. Pure hypocrites!

    June 24, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  22. Asa

    General Petraeus is a good choice. It is seemingly unfathable that Obama let it happen with all the bashing Petraeus has taken from the left wing loons over the last few years. I think McChrystal fell under the knife in attempt to prop up Obama's glaring weaknesses.

    June 24, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  23. Dave

    Withdrawal....pfffffffffftt!!! You just made me spit out my lemonade!!!!
    Please, get real. A lot of the public are getting wise to the fact this just isn't going to play out that way. We are in for a long time. CIA has got to protect their poppy fields and keep that money flowing into Wall Street!

    June 24, 2010 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  24. Dan

    Time for political correctness to catch up in yet another major institute of American life: the armed forces!

    June 24, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  25. Steve- Illinois

    Amazing that for being so incompetent, G.W. and Obama pick the same guy to run the war!!! Old George and Petraeus had to have a good laugh over that announcement!! Where's the BETRAYUS headlines now? Where's the liberal media blasting this decision?
    Where's Harry "all is lost" Reid?
    The news media have all been reporting this decision as "brilliant!"
    What a bunch of suck ups! When Bush puts him in charge it's General Betrayus, when Obama does it, it's brilliant?
    When will the media get their gnads back and actually start reporting news instead of getting that warm feeling down the leg of their pants whenever Obama speaks?
    Petraeus should have spent his 30 minutes with the President watching the lecture Mr. Junior Senator from Illinois gave him on the Senate floor! You know the one! How the surge wouldn't work and how Senator Obama had no trust in General Petraeus!

    Oh how life has it's little twists and turns!

    June 24, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
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