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Petraeus Appeals for Military-Civilian 'Unity' in Afghanistan

Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry salute during the Independence Day celebrations July 3 in Kabul. (AP Photo)

Gen. David Petraeus, in a July 4 message to troops and diplomats in Afghanistan, called for a "team effort" between the military and civilian sides of the war as Sen. John McCain continued to question whether that's possible. 

Petraeus formally took command in Afghanistan Sunday after Gen. Stanley McChrystal resigned over divisive comments he and his aides made in a magazine article last month. The comments underscored the tension that exists between the military and civilian teams -- something the incoming general is aiming to smooth over immediately. 

"This endeavor has to be a team effort. We must strive to contribute to the 'Team of Teams' at work in Afghanistan and to achieve unity of effort with our diplomatic, international civilian and Afghan partners as we carry out a comprehensive, civil-military counterinsurgency campaign," he wrote Sunday. Petraeus made a similar plea in remarks to troops upon taking command. 

"Cooperation is not optional," he said. 

But despite Petraeus' appeal, some in Congress have questioned whether McChrystal is the only top-ranking official who has to go. McChrystal, a supporter of the troop-heavy counterinsurgency strategy, was at odds with Amb. Karl Eikenberry over the approach -- and with Petraeus now the face of that strategy, McCain suggested the jury's out on whether the two can effectively work together. 

"I hope that the ambassador and General Petraeus can work together," he said on ABC's "This Week." "I think that the assessment needs to be made. Obviously, the past relationships have not worked out as well as they should have." 

McCain, R-Ariz., repeated his assertion that former Amb. Ryan Crocker and Petraeus made up "the ideal team" while the two were serving in Iraq. Petraeus was the commanding general in Iraq at the time before leaving to assume leadership at U.S. Central Command. 

"Let's hope we can establish that same kind of relationship here in Afghanistan," McCain said. 

McCain is in Afghanistan with Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. 

Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Lieberman said Petraeus did not directly address the make-up of the diplomatic team during a face-to-face meeting with the general. 

"We didn't talk about civil-military relations at this point, except that General Petraeus talked about how committed he was to a unity of effort among Americans here in Kabul," Lieberman said. 

Last year, Eikenberry sent cables to Washington critical of the counterinsurgency approach during President Obama's months-long strategy review. In the Rolling Stone article that led to his resignation, McChrystal said Eikenberry was trying to look good for the history books. 

His staff also made critical comments about Special Representative Richard Holbrooke

In his letter to U.S. forces, Petraeus described the Afghanistan war as a "contest of wills" and urged his team to stay focused.  

"Our enemies will do all that they can to shake our confidence and the confidence of the Afghan people," he wrote. "In turn, we must continue to demonstrate our resolve to the enemy. We will do so through our relentless pursuit of the Taliban and others who mean Afghanistan harm, through our compassion for the Afghan people and through our example and the values that we live."

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