Levin: Petraeus hearings 'no later than next Tuesday'

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on Wednesday said he expects full approval of Gen. David Petraeus to head U.S. forces in Afghanistan before the July 4th congressional recess.

Levin, whose role is critical in moving Petraeus's confirmation through the Senate, said a committee confirmation hearing would happen either Monday or Tuesday — "no later than Tuesday" — and a final vote probably by the end of the week. He noted that Petraeus was just before the committee last week and that he has wide, comfortable bipartisan support.

"I have a high degree of confidence that we can get this done in committee even the same day that we have the hearing," Levin said. "We all know Gen. Petraeus. He was just in front of us a week ago. I don't think there's going to be anybody who wants to hold up a vote... We know him so well, and we all know how essential it is to have continuity in terms of our command in the field."

President Barack Obama removed Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the U.S. commander in Afghanistan Wednesday, a day after a Rolling Stone magazine profile which quoted McChrystal repeatedly criticizing administration officials.

Levin said he supported Obama's decision, noting that the differences between McChrystal and other administration officials were based on personalities, not policies.

"But we just simply can't afford distractions of this kind in the middle of a war," he said.

Levin also pushed back against criticism from Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) over the July 2011 withdrawal date for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Levin said the withdrawal date was necessary to force Afghan officials to take over their security needs.

"The only way you can get the Afghans to focus on the need to take responsibility for the security of their own country is if they understand, at a leadership level, that this isn't an open-ended commitment," he said.

However, Levin said the withdrawal date is "not etched in stone," and that Obama could always change his mind depending on conditions at the time.