Petraeus Faces Senate Confirmation Hearing
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
General David Petraeus is the president's nominee to become the next director of the CIA. But at his Senate confirmation hearing today, he spent most of the time talking about his current job: commander of forces in Afghanistan. Petraeus said he stands behind President Obama's plan to pull troops out of Afghanistan, even if that happens at a faster pace than he'd advise.
NPR's Tamara Keith joins us now with more on the confirmation hearings.
Tamara, let's start with Afghanistan what did General Petraeus say about the president's troop decision?
TAMARA KEITH: Well, he was certainly given plenty of opportunities to say what he really thinks. He did say that the president didn't follow his recommendation, and that the president is choosing to pull out troops faster and more of them than he would've liked.
Let's listen to what General Petraeus said.
General DAVID PETRAEUS (Commander, Multi-National Force, Afghanistan): The ultimate decision was a more aggressive formulation, if you will, in terms of the timeline, than what we had recommended. Again, that is understandable in the sense that there are broader considerations beyond just those of a military commander.
KEITH: And as you heard, he basically deferred to the president. He said that once the president has made a decision, it is the job of the commanders on the ground to salute smartly and carry out the mission.
NORRIS: So he said that the president didn't follow the course he recommended. Did he say anything about what his recommendation to the president was?
KEITH: Oh, people certainly tried to get him to but he did not talk about any numbers in particular. He did say that military leaders would have preferred to have the surge troops, those 33,000 troops, stay longer through two fighting seasons. So that would've been through the end of 2012; the president moved that up a few months.
He did have some interesting things to say about how the decision was made. There were three meetings. After the first meeting, General Petraeus was given some homework. And he also said that there were vigorous discussions in all of these meetings.
NORRIS: Let's look to his next post. Now this was, as we said, a confirmation hearing for the general. What did senators want to know about whether he's the right person for this next post, the CIA job?
KEITH: Well, there was a big focus on the culture at the CIA. You know, General Petraeus is a celebrity general. He is very well-known. And one senator asked, you know, are you going to be able to go from General Petraeus to Mr. Petraeus, to Director Petraeus. And what she meant is that he's going into this organization where people don't call attention to themselves, and it's also an organization that's facing questions about the militarization of intelligence.
General Petraeus said he will be retiring from the military if confirmed for this job, and he'll wear a suit not a uniform.
KEITH: And, Tamara, I wanted to pick up on something you just said about intelligence being militarized. One of the big areas the CIA will have to weigh in on is Afghanistan. But as the new boss at CIA, he will be a former commander. And it has to go to the question that he was just asked, or that you just referred to, will that be a problem, a challenge for him?
KEITH: Well, and he saw that question coming. He actually tried to head it off in his opening statement. Basically yes, CIA analysts have been skeptical of the progress in this war and General Petraeus is the architect of this counterinsurgency strategy, now being used in Afghanistan. He saw it coming and he said he will be able to take that criticism.
Gen. PETRAEUS: Clearly, I have views efforts in which I've been engaged. I've shared them in the past with the agency's analysts and I'll do so in the future. However, if confirmed, when I am in the Situation Room with the president, I will strive to present the agency position.
NORRIS: And just quickly, I've got to let you go. But prospects for his confirmation look likely?
KEITH: Very good prospects. A number of senators said they look forward to voting for him.
NORRIS: That's NPR's Tamara Keith. Tamura, thank you so much.
KEITH: Thank you.
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