AFGHANISTAN: Changes in Defense, CIA, U.S. Military, Diplomatic Leadership

April 27, 2011 at 12:42 pm Leave a comment

Obama Security Team: Musical Chairs

President Obama is going to nominate CIA Director Leon Panetta to replace departing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, according to the Associated Press and several other news outlets including the Washington Post, New York Times, and Bloomberg.

Additionally, Panetta will be replaced at CIA by Army Gen. David Petraeus, current commander of U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, according to reports. And Ryan Crocker, President George Bush’s envoy to Iraq is said to be Obama’s choice for ambassador to Afghanistan.

Departing Defense Secretary Robert Gates to be replaced by CIA Director Leon Panetta, reports say. (Defense Dept. photo)

The Panetta- Petraeus move had been rumored for months. Panetta, 72, a former California congressman (1977-1993) served as President Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff. Previous turns as chairman of the House Budget Committee and head of the Office of Management and Budget (1993-94) in the Clinton administration are expected to be major assets as Obama seeks to trim the Pentagon’s budget by hundreds of billions of dollars in an effort to reduce the federal budget deficit.

Petraeus, a former commander of the 101st Airborne Division and U.S. Central Command, is popular on Capitol Hill and is seen as mastermind of the successful surge of U.S. troops in Iraq in 2007 when sectarian violence began to spin out of control. Obama picked Petraeus, 58, to command in Afghanistan after removing Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal in June 2010.

Gates, himself a former CIA director, was tapped for the Defense post by President George W. Bush in 2006 and retained by Obama when he became president. Gates has been talking about leaving the grueling Pentagon post to return to private life for more than a year. Gates said recently that Petraeus would issue an assessment soon on how many troops can leave Afghanistan in July, as part of Obama’s promised start of U.S. troop reduction there in 2011.

If confirmed by the Senate, Crocker would replace former Army general Karl Eikenberry, who has had difficult relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

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