June 23, 2010 / 6:35 PM / 9 years ago

Five facts about General David Petraeus

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday picked General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, as the new commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

He replaces General Stanley McChrystal, who Obama fired for mocking comments by him and aides about the president and some of his top advisers.

Here are five facts about Petraeus.

* Petraeus, 57, is credited with pulling Iraq back from the brink of all-out sectarian warfare and is widely hailed as a war hero. As head of U.S. Central Command since 2008, Petraeus had been McChrystal’s boss overseeing a huge region that includes Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen.

* A Republican favorite, Petraeus has often been mentioned as a possible future presidential candidate but says he has no interest in the job. Although once a registered Republican, Petraeus stresses his independence and has not voted for years. But suspicions linger in the Obama White House that he might harbor secret political ambitions and could pose a fierce challenge to Democrats some day.

* Known as a “warrior-scholar,” David Petraeus earned a doctoral degree from Princeton University and did his dissertation on the war in Vietnam. He oversaw development of the counter-insurgency field manual guiding the U.S. armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, which serves as the backbone of Afghan war strategy.

* Petraeus has survived his share of physical challenges. He was successfully treated for prostate cancer last year. His pelvis was broken in a parachuting accident and he was shot in the chest in a training exercise.

* Fiercely competitive and extremely fit, the general was once known to challenge younger soldiers to pushup contests. Still, his stamina showed limitations this month when he briefly fainted during congressional testimony. He blamed dehydration.

Reporting by Phil Stewart and Adam Entous in Washington; editing by Patricia Wilson and Doina Chiacu

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