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Petraeus tipped as new head of the CIA

US officials have indicated that the next head of the CIA will be General David Petraeus – the current head of international forces in Afghanistan.

General David Petraeus, Commander of NATO International Security Assistance Force and US Forces Afghanistan.
General David Petraeus, Commander of NATO International Security Assistance Force and US Forces Afghanistan.
Image: AP Photo/Sang Tan

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama plans to name CIA Director Leon Panetta as the next secretary of defence and move General David Petraeus, now running the war in Afghanistan, into the CIA chief’s job in a major shuffle of the nation’s national security leadership, administration and other sources said Wednesday.

The changes would probably take effect this summer. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already said he will leave this year, and the White House wants to schedule Senate confirmation hearings in the coming months.

All sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the changes haven’t been announced by the president.

The officials say Obama also is expected to name Lt Gen John Allen to replace Petraeus as Afghanistan commander, and diplomat Ryan Crocker to be the next US ambassador in Afghanistan. Officials say the turnover is slated for July, giving the administration several months to get Panetta and Petraeus confirmed by the Senate.

White House spokesman Jay Carney would not confirm the plans but did say that Obama would speak Thursday about personnel moves on his national security team. A former US official said all four candidates, and Defense Secretary Gates, would stand together with Obama for the announcement.

Officials said Tuesday the White House was weighing several factors, including Crocker’s role in the larger cast change in Afghanistan policy this summer and fall. Those personnel changes are unrelated to the progress of the prolonged war but come just as Obama needs to demonstrate enough success to follow through with his pledge to begin withdrawing US forces in July.

US military and civilian defense leaders call 2011 the make-or-break year for turning around the war and laying the path for a gradual US exit by 2015. The main obstacles are the uncertain leadership and weak government of Karzai, the open question of whether the Taliban can be integrated into Afghan political life and the continued safe harbor Pakistan provides for militants attacking U.S. and NATO forces over the border in Afghanistan.

A US official who confirmed Panetta’s move to the Pentagon said the White House chose him because of his long experience in Washington, including working with budgets at the intelligence agency, as well as his extensive experience in the field during his time as CIA director. The official said Panetta had traveled more than 200,000 miles, to more than 40 CIA stations and bases and more than 30 countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Petraeus, who took over as Afghanistan war commander in June, has been expected to leave that post before the end of this year. His name had been floated for weeks as a possible replacement for Panetta if Obama tapped Panetta as Pentagon chief. Current and former administration officials noted that Petraeus would bring a customer’s eye to the job as one of the key people to use and understand CIA and military intelligence during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

- AP

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