President George W. Bush asked the Senate on Wednesday to confirm quickly the top commanders he has chosen to oversee the war in Iraq.
"It is important to get these three fine individuals in their posts as soon as possible so that we have continuity as we do our duty to protect the American people," the president said.
He was referring to Adm. William Fallon, chosen to replace Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander overseeing the military theater that includes Iraq; Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, nominated to be the new chief commander in Iraq; and Gen. George Casey, leaving the top Iraq job to take over from the retiring Gen. Peter Schoomaker as Army chief of staff.
The Senate must approve all three nominations. Late Wednesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously voted to approve Petraeus and sent his nomination to the full Senate.
Bush's comments came before an annual gathering with top military brass, a meeting in the Cabinet Room that drew the Joint Chiefs of Staff and combatant commanders to talk about Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism, maintaining a strong military and the defense budget.
The meeting came shortly after a Senate committee dismissed the president's decision to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq as "not in the national interest." The Democratic-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-9 to pass the nonbinding resolution, a rare repudiation of a commander in chief during wartime.
Bush did not mention the vote, but his spokesman said it is not the last word on the president's troop-increase plan.
"The president as commander in chief has an obligation to succeed in Iraq and defend Americans, and he believes this is the most effective way to do it," White House press secretary Tony Snow said. "We'll see what they have to say down the road."