16 Aug 2010

Petraeus hedges on Afghan withdrawal date

6:50 am on 16 August 2010

The new commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan says he will not be bound by next year's target date to begin withdrawing United States troops.

General David Petraeus says he reserves the right to tell President Barack Obama if he thinks the pull-out date is too early, the BBC reports.

"As conditions permit, we transition to our Afghan counterparts in the security forces and government, and that allows a responsible draw-down of our forces," he said

Mr Obama set July 2011 as a target date to begin withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan, when he approved the deployment of 30,000 extra troops in December.

But General Petraeus says progress only began a few months ago, when those troops arrived.

The general took over command of international forces in Afghanistan last month.

His predecessor, General Stanley McChrystal, was sacked after he made disparaging remarks about the Obama administration in a magazine article.