WASHINGTON General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in the Middle East who is overseeing the war in Afghanistan, collapsed during a Senate committee hearing on the conflict in the Central Asian country Tuesday and had to be escorted from the room. Others attending the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing said Petraeus was listening to Senator John McCain, a Republican, voice concern about the direction of the US war effort in Afghanistan when he seemed to faint. Aides rushed to help him, and he was led out of the hearing room. Minutes later, Committee Chairman Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat, said Petraeus appears to be doing very much better. He returned about 30 minutes later and was greeted with applause. I just got dehydrated, said Petraeus, who appears to be under pressure because of the setback to US military operations in Afghanistan. Although Petraeus indicated he could proceed, the session was adjourned until later this week. Before he fainted, Petraeus testified US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan were making progress in their fight against the Taliban insurgency. He had just answered questions from Levin and McCain, the committees ranking Republican, on whether Obamas deadline to begin a pullout in Afghanistan next year could be met, and whether it would be wise to alert allies and enemies the United States had a time table to leave. Petraeus told Senators there will be nothing easy about the Afghanistan mission, saying it likely would get harder before it got easier to secure Taliban strongholds in the south. That has already been the case, as weve seen recently, Petraeus said. But it is essential that we make progress in the critical southern part of the country - the part where, in fact, the (Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States) were planned by al-Qaeda during the period when the Taliban controlled it and much of the rest of the country.