• With: Fred Barnes, Mara Liasson, Tucker Carlson

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    GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: It is going to be a number of years before the Afghan forces can truly handle security tasks in Afghanistan on their own -- on their own. The commitment to Afghanistan is necessarily, therefore, an enduring one.

     

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: The president's chief adviser Rahm Emanuel said, "Everybody knows there is a firm date. July, 2011 is not changing. Everybody agreed on that date."

     

    General, at any time during the deliberations that the military shared with the president when he went through the decision making process, was there a recommendation from you or anyone in the military that we set a date of July, 2011?

     

    PETRAEUS: There was not.

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    BAIER: General David Petraeus trying to navigate a political minefield today on Capitol Hill in his confirmation hearing. He made it out of committee and is expected to get full approval from the Senate quickly and move to the theater to take over in Afghanistan. What about this hearing, what we learned and what we didn't learn? Let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, And Tucker Carlson, editor of thedailycaller.com. Mara, there was a lot of talk about July 11, the start date for withdrawal. They won't turn off the light or close the door, but there was a lot of quotes read in this hearing from administration officials.

    MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: The date of July 11 --

     

    BAIER: July, 2011.

     

    LIASSON: July of 2011 has become a pretty good umbrella for everyone's opinion inside the administration on Afghanistan. The president has been clarifying it bit by bit. The choice of Petraeus in and of itself is recommitment of the strategy to Afghanistan by the president, a doubling down of strategy.

     

    He said that is when some withdrawal will start. Every single thing we heard since Petraeus was appointed, it will be gradual withdrawal and that's what Secretary Gates and General Petraeus said all along.

    BAIER: Fred, at one point Senator Lindsey Graham pointed out that Vice President Biden said publicly you will see a significant number of troops coming out starting July, 2011. And then Petraeus said he took him aside in national security meeting and say I'm 100 percent behind the policy, however you see it on the ground.

     

    FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Bret, that was a perfect example of his navigating the minefield you talked about. This was a brilliant performance by General Petraeus. Just watching some of it, you can think of what he is to Stanley McChrystal is what Eisenhower was to George Patton. And Eisenhower was very deft politically and Petraeus is deft politically. And generals like that wind up being chairman of the joints chief and sometimes president.

     

    That answer in particular, Lindsey Graham wanted him to repudiate what Vice President Biden was quoted to have been saying. He switched and said the last time I saw the president, the president said he is 100 percent behind the policy. It was very deftly done.

     

    And as Mara said, he said in July of 2011, what we do will be conditions-based. He said we have enduring commitment. Then he said we're not going to see the troops rapidly flying out the door the way Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, said it would happen.

     

    He did President Obama a lot of good and himself, General Petraeus, a lot of good and established, I think, beyond any doubt not much will happen in July of next year.

     

    TUCKER CARLSON, EDITOR, THEDAILYCALLER.COM: When the president asks General Petraeus to replace Stanley McChrystal I heard the Republicans grousing that this was a political move designed to take Petraeus off the market so he couldn't enter the presidential race as a Republican.

     

    I have no idea if that is true, but you could see why people would come to the conclusion. He is very deft, very skillful as a political player.

     

    But I don't think it's so easy for the president to go back on the public commitment he made to begin pull-back a year from this week.