General David Petraeus, the current commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said today that President Obama’s decision to withdraw over 30,000 troops from Afghanistan by September 2012 is a “more aggressive” plan than the one on which the president’s military commanders had advised.
“The responsibility of combat commander in that kind of situation is to provide options to the president to implement his stated policy,” said Petraeus. “And that’s what I did.”
"The ultimate decision was a more aggressive formulation, if you will, in terms of the timeline, than what we had recommended," he continued.
Petraeus was testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee this afternoon. While the hearing was nominally concerned with Petraeus’s nomination as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a significant amount of time focused on the president’s Afghanistan announcement.
Asked multiple times about his thoughts and concerns about Obama’s decision, Petraeus repeatedly said he concurred with Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who testified this morning to the House Armed Services Committee that “the President’s decisions are more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept.”
Petraeus said many times that he understands there are more factors to consider than just the advice of the military commanders. “Each person that is above me, all the way up to and including the president, has a broader purview and has broader considerations that are brought to bear, with the president alone in the position of evaluating all of those different considerations, including certainly those of the commander on the ground and also many other as well, in reaching his decision,” he said. “The president had made a decision, the commander in chief gets to decide it, and then it is the responsibility, needless to say, of those in uniform to salute smartly and to do everything humanly possible to execute.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) asked Petraeus about what else President Obama considered when making his decision. “There are broader considerations that guided that in my view,” Petraeus said. “I don’t think it’s my place to try to explain in detail what those broad considerations are.”
Rubio pressed further. "The September 2012 date: Is there any specific significance to that date from a military or practical perspective as to why that date was chosen, September 2012?" he asked.
"Again, I'm not going to try to provide a rationale that individuals used in making the decision," Petraeus responded.
Petraeus received widespread praise from both sides of the aisle in today’s hearing. Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said at the end of the hearing that she hopes the Senate will confirm Petraeus as the new CIA director by July 4.