Army general David Petraeus passed out in a senate hearing Tuesday, briefly overshadowing mounting concern on Capitol Hill about the Afghanistan war strategy. Petraeus fainted while he was being grilled by lawmakers in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Before his face-plant into the table, senators questioned the general about what the fitful progress of the Afghanistan surge means to the U.S. -Afghanistan timeline. Even though Petraeus was able to return, the hearing was postponed until Wednesday.
Petraeus questioned about Afghanistan surge
Petraeus appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday because of growing unease over progress on the battlefield and corruption within the Afghan government. The Washington Post reports that pressure for results stems from the Afghanistan timeline the Obama administration set when he announced his Afghanistan strategy and the deployment of 30,000 additional troops in December. When the Afghanistan surge is complete, by the end of August, U.S. troop strength will be about 100,000. Troops are scheduled to begin withdrawing in July 2011. Strong Taliban resistance, despite the Afghanistan surge and lagging Afghan government participation, have slowed progress, creating the image that things are not going as well as anticipated by the administration’s Afghanistan strategy.
Video blocked of Petraeus fainting
Petraeus fainted while he was being questioned by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who expressed doubts about the timeline for Afghanistan withdrawal. Although the hearing was televised, the New York Daily News reports that a clear view of Petraeus passing out on video (see below) isn’t available. As Petraeus slumped forward, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell jumped to his feet and blocked one of the television cameras from viewing the general. He then directed another aide to block the view of a second camera.
Petraeus defends Afghanistan strategy
Before Petraeus passed out, CNN reports that he said progress is being made with the Afghanistan surge even as the violence has gotten more intense. The surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan is ahead of schedule, but the situation on the ground will get worse before it gets better, Petraeus said. All 30,000 additional U.S. troops Obama ordered last year will be in place in Afghanistan by the end of August, according to Petraeus. Troops had originally been scheduled to be in place by September. He told the congressional panel Tuesday that the goal of increasing the size and capability of the struggling Afghan National Army and police forces is back on track, but there is more work to be done.
McCain slams Afghanistan timeline
After Petraeus fainted and the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing was postponed, McCain told the Washington Post that the U.S.-Afghanistan timeline has the Taliban, the Afghan government and other competing interests convinced that the U.S. is more interested in leaving than winning the war. And as a result, they’re all getting ready for an Afghanistan without a U.S. presence. It’s true that Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to negotiate with the Taliban and suck up to the Pakistani military. He also fired members of the Afghan government who had constructive relations with the United States. Karzai knows that the American presence is the only thing keeping him alive at this point. He wants another protector in place when they pull out.