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Petraeus hedges on July 2011 Afghan pullback goal

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August 13, 2010 07:27 AM EST | AP

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WASHINGTON — The new U.S. commander in Afghanistan says the goal of starting an American pullback by July 2011 will depend on conditions at the time.

In an interview taped for NBC's "Meet the Press" this weekend, Gen. David Petraeus hedged a bit when asked by interviewer David Gregory if the summer deadline next year was non-negotiable.

In the interview, Petraeus says President Barack Obama has "expressed very clearly that what he wants from me is my best military advice." The general, who succeeded the ousted Gen. Stanley McChrystal, said that if sufficient progress has not been made by that date, "I would communicate that to him. ... That's real life."

Petraeus conceded the U.S. mission in the war-weary South Asian nation is tough, and will remain so.