PETRAEUS FALLS ILL, BUT IS REPORTEDLY FINE…. There was a bit of a scare this morning during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, when Gen. David Petraeus fell ill during a question from John McCain. The New York Times said the general “appeared to faint briefly.”

While Petraeus was escorted from the room, he returned about a half-hour later, explaining that he was dehydrated.

Though Petraeus expressed a willingness to continue with the hearing, Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he would reconvene tomorrow.

As for the substantive discussion of the hearing, Petraeus defended the existing U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Reflecting on President Obama’s strategy of reducing U.S. forces in Afghanistan in July 2011, Petraeus said, “I support the policy of the president.”

He added, “what happens in July 2011 is the beginning of a process for transition that is conditions-based,” and will be a “responsible draw-down of U.S. forces.” The general went on to say, “There was a nuance to what the president said that was very important, that did not imply a race for the exits, a search for the light to turn off or anything like that. It did imply a need for greater urgency.”

With Congress increasingly skeptical about the U.S. mission, it remains to be seen whether Petraeus’ assurances change the debate among lawmakers.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.