June 16th, 2010
11:32 AM ET

Quips, grilling on progress greet Petraeus on return

WASHINGTON (CNN) - After a very public fainting spell, General David Petraeus was back before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday and looking well one day after his mid-hearing faint led to Chairman Carl Levin (D-Michigan) to recess the hearing. Senators were quick to resume their questioning of progress in the Afghanistan war.

Before the questioning began, Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command and the top U.S. military official overseeing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, joked with the committee about the Tuesday incident which was heavy replayed on cable television networks and online.

"Thank you for the opportunity for a redo hearing after I demonstrated yesterday the importance of following my first platoon sergeant's order 35 years ago to always stay hydrated. I'll try to remember that in the future," Petraeus said.

Yesterday he told reporters he collapsed at the hearing because he was dehydrated. Levin said yesterday that the general had also skipped breakfast. Witnesses at Congressional hearings often try to curtail liquids in order to endure the long sessions.

"I do thank the committee as well for the chocolate chip cookies that were in the anteroom before this session," Petraeus said Wednesday.

After more questions from ranking member John McCain (R-Arizona) who was questioning Petraeus yesterday when the general fell ill, Petraeus was welcomed back by Sen. Joe Leiberman who compared Petraeus to pro soccer players who have been known to go from writhing in pain on the ground to running around fit as a fiddle in a matter of moments. "Your recovery time was very impressive yesterday. I thought it was at World Cup levels. And the coach may want to add you to the team roster before Slovienia later in the week," Leiberman joked.

But light-hearted comments about Petraeus's health quickly shifted to the important matters about the war in Afghanistan, now the longest war in U.S. history. Leiberman asked why Petraeus could sound so positive about the war in comments to the committee, while Gen. Stanley McChyrstal, the U.S. commander on the ground there, is sounding notes of caution.

"The conduct of a counterinsurgency operation is a roller coaster experience, there are setbacks as well as areas of progress or successes," Petraeus said. "But the trajectory in my view has generally been upward, despite the tough losses, despite the setbacks."

He also answered a question about the Pakistan military's committment to fighting the Taliban who are often based in that country.

"They do realize" he said "you cannot allow poisonous snakes to build a nest in your backyard with the understanding that those snakes will only bite the neighbor's kids because sooner or later they will turn around and bite your kids."

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