Petraeus: First US cuts will include combat forces

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said today the initial wave of troop withdrawals in July will probably include combat as well as noncombat forces, part of a President Barack Obama's long-term strategy that garnered crucial support from lawmakers.

Testifying for a second day on Capitol Hill, Army Gen. David Petraeus described combat gains since last year's U.S. troop buildup, and several members of the House Armed Services Committee who recently traveled to Afghanistan echoed his assessment.

"During a visit last week with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates observed, `The closer you get to this fight, the better it looks,'" said Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif. "Having just returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan a few weeks ago, I couldn't agree more."

Petraeus' testimony to various House and Senate committees — and private meetings with congressional leaders — are designed to ensure political support for the long, costly war despite strong opposition among the American people.

The Pentagon also is asking Congress to provide $553 billion for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, plus $118 billion in costs for Iraq and Afghanistan.

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