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While Petraeus Waits for Senate, Brits Take Over

Gen. David Petraeus is poised to take over command of NATO forces in Afghanistan, but until he's confirmed by the Senate, that responsibility falls to a British general.

Lt. Gen. Nick Parker will temporarily run operations in the war-torn country and said that the change in leadership brings no change in mission.

Parker said NATO troops "remain absolutely focused" on their tasks, and vows "the operational tempo will not miss a beat."

Meanwhile, a Senate panel is moving quickly to hold a confirmation hearing for Petraeus. The Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing for the Army four-star general next Tuesday.

Both Republicans and Democrats have said they back Petraeus for the job. He would replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who resigned after he and his aides were quoted in a magazine article making scornful remarks about the administration.

Petraeus currently heads the U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. His replacement has not been named.

Also in Afghanistan Thursday, the U.S. ambassador pledged to move forward in a unified mission with Petraeus after McChrystal's ouster.

"The United States cannot allow diversions to prevent us from carrying out our mission with unity of purpose," Eikenberry said in a speech to Afghan journalists. "Our president felt that a change was needed to maintain that unity of purpose and so he made that change. He told us that it is time for us to come together and that's what we are going to do."

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Eikenberry and McChrystal clashed publicly over strategy in Afghanistan during the time they led the civilian and military sides of the U.S. mission in the country. In the Rolling Stone article, McChrystal is quoted saying he felt betrayed when Eikenberry wrote a memo suggesting that the effort was doomed as long as President Hamid Karzai continued as the country's leader.

But the U.S. ambassador commended McChrystal on Thursday.

"Stan and I have known each other for a very long time, and worked shoulder-to-shoulder here together under very difficult circumstances over this past year. He was an excellent partner," Eikenberry said. He said he had not read the Rolling Stone article.

Eikenberry said he was confident that Petraeus, who has been deeply involved in creating and implementing the Afghan strategy, would be able to take up the new post without losing momentum.

"We continue to have a very clear goal. We are going to break the Taliban's momentum. We are going to build Afghan capacity, especially in the area of your army and your police," Eikenberry said. He declined to comment on his relationship with Karzai, which has appeared strained since his criticism of the leader. He did say that he met with Karzai earlier Thursday.

Meanwhile, NATO is reporting a number of strikes in and around the southern city of Kandahar. The alliance says NATO and Afghan troops destroyed a bomb factory, killing a Taliban district commander. A province security official says 15 insurgents in all died in the attack.

In northern Kunduz province, NATO says coalition air strikes killed "a number" of insurgents but did not say how many.

Among NATO troops, the death toll has risen to at least 80 so far this month. The most recent were four British soldiers killed in a vehicle accident in Helmand province yesterday.

Separately, the Afghan government says seven Afghan construction workers were killed in a roadside bomb attack in central Afghanistan.

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