Top US general plays down Afghan expectations

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The general set to take over command for US and Nato forces in Afghanistan has prepared war-weary lawmakers for a further escalation in violence, playing down hopes for a swift turnaround in fortunes after nine years of war.

General David Petraeus, appearing for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, made clear he supported US President Barack Obama's underlying war strategy including the July 2011 date to start a drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan, but stressed it was just the "beginning of a process."

"It is important to note the President's reminder in recent days that July 2011 will mark the beginning of a process, not the date when the US heads for the exits and turns out the lights. As he explained this past Sunday, in fact, we will need to provide assistance to Afghanistan for a long time to come," Petraeus said.

Petraeus called the security situation "tenuous" and said the Taliban insurgency remained resilient and confident it could outlast the United States and its allies.

Senate confirmation appeared assured for General David Petraeus, who became one of the US military's biggest stars after helping turn around the war in Iraq.

President Barack Obama fired the previous commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, last week after he and his aides were quoted disparaging the president and other top civilian advisers in an article in Rolling Stones magazine.

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