Gen. David Petraeus in Washington, April 27, 2011. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo
WASHINGTON, June 24 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama's decision to draw down 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by summer 2012 was made after hearing "all voices," Gen. David Petraeus said.
Speaking before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, the commander of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan said Obama, prior to making his announcement on drawing down the surge troops, took into account its military implications and broader considerations.
The Senate committee was holding a hearing to confirm Petraeus' nomination as the next director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
"All voices were heard in the Situation Room and, ultimately, the decision was made," the general said, while expressing his support for the decision. "Each person above me, all the way up to and including the president, has a broader view and has broader considerations that are brought to bear, with the president alone in the position of evaluating all those different considerations."
The general said the final decision was "a more aggressive formulation in terms of the timeline than what we had recommended" but added it "was "understandable in the sense that there are broader considerations beyond those of a military commander."
He said the drawdown will begin next month starting at seven Afghan locations, including the capital of Kabul and its surrounding provinces. Commanders on the ground would have some flexibility in determining which forces would leave, the general said.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in an interview with PBS, said Obama had a range of options before setting the timeline for the troop withdrawal. Gates said he asked Petraeus to outline several scenarios for the drawdown plan.
He said the drawdown still will leave a significant number of troops in Afghanistan as part of the president's strategy.
"I think it's important to remember that we'll still leave some 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan," he said. "So, the whole idea of this strategy from the very beginning was for us to come in heavy with the surge, beat back the Taliban's momentum, particularly in the south and southwest -- Helmand, Kandahar, that area."
Gates also spoke of other goals of the strategy, including focusing on infiltration routes from Pakistan.
He said he would consider the mission in Afghanistan a success "if you define success the way I think we should, which is we have prevented the Taliban from forcibly overthrowing the Afghanistan government, the Afghan security forces can secure their own territory and prevent al-Qaida or other extremist groups from coming back and using it as a safe haven."