Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, fell ill this morning while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, forcing the committee to adjourn.
Petraeus appeared to faint and was escorted from the Senate hearing room and the session was adjourned. The commander returned 30 minutes later and officials said he does not appear to have any serious health problems. Petraeus said he just hadn't eaten or drank anything and was dehydrated. Referring to his spell, which occurred as Sen. John McCain asked him a question, Petraeus assured committee members "it wasn't Senator McCain's questions."
It's understandable that there might be some strain on him, though. Senators were grilling him about President Obama's plan to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan starting in July 2011, a timeline some critics have described as too aggressive. Petraeus said last week that a major offensive aimed at flushing the Taliban out of Kandahar, long their stronghold, was meeting with mixed results and would take longer than originally expected, and there's speculation that the army is planning to be in Afghanistan longer than it has admitted.
Under questioning from both Democratic and Republican members concerned about Taliban resurgence in the country, Petraeus said he supports the president's timeline, just before passing out.
The general is 57, but is known for being in excellent shape. He is a long-distance runner, and in a classic piece of army lore recovered quickly after being accidentally shot in the chest in 1991. Not long into his recuperation from a five-hour surgery, Petraeus insisted on being released, removing IV tubes from his arm and dropping to the floor to do push-ups to show he was healthy.
In an echo of that quick recovery, Petraeus said he was happy to continue his testimony once he had recovered, but the committee opted to adjourn until Wednesday.