WASHINGTON - Gen. David Petraeus slumped at the witness table yesterday while testifying at a Senate hearing, and a spokesman said the general was likely dehydrated and jet-lagged from his travels.
Petraeus, 57, revived after a few seconds and left the room under his own power. After about 20 minutes he returned to the hearing room, but Sen. Carl Levin, the panel chairman, decided to postpone the hearing.
"It appears he was maybe a little jet-lagged, dehydrated certainly," said Petraeus' spokesman, Col. Erik Gunhus.
Petraeus had finished telling Sen. John McCain that he believed the planned 2011 drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan remains on track, and McCain was responding when the room fell silent and aides began crowding around the four-star general.
Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as head of U.S. Central Command, briefly put his head on the table, then rose, appearing dazed. He stood under his own power and was escorted from the room.
Petraeus was taken to another room, given something to eat and drink and was examined by a doctor, Gunhus said. Petraeus returned to the room briefly and told the senators he was "feeling a little bit lightheaded there."
"It wasn't Sen. McCain's question," the general added.
Meanwhile, five NATO service members, including one American, died yesterday from fighting in the south and east of Afghanistan, officials said, as Taliban militants ramp up attacks on Afghan and international security forces.
Authorities also said that 12 Afghan police officers and six civilians have died in attacks and bombings since early Monday.
Both NATO troops and Afghan security forces have been suffering heavier casualties in recent weeks. Including the latest deaths, 44 international service members have been killed so far this month, 27 of them American, nine British.
Three of the latest NATO deaths were British soldiers - two shot dead yesterday in separate incidents in southern Helmand province. The third died in a British hospital from injuries sustained in a firefight Sunday in Helmand, according to the British government.
A U.S. service member was killed yesterday in a gunbattle in eastern Afghanistan, said Col. Wayne Shanks, a spokesman for U.S. forces.
A Polish soldier was killed and two others were injured yesterday in a missile attack on a base in eastern Afghanistan.
Poland has lost 18 soldiers in Afghanistan, where it has about 2,600 troops. Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said he wants to end the Polish mission there.