Petraeus to head CIA as Obama imposes new order on US security

General David Petraeus, the US commander in Afghanistan, is set to become CIA director as part of a major shake-up of President Obama's national security team, in which the agency's current director, Leon Panetta, will replace Robert Gates as Defence Secretary.

The long-rumoured changes, that could be announced by the White House today, are likely to take effect this summer, when the much-admired Mr Gates – the lone Republican holdover from the Bush administration – is expected to step down after five years in one of US government's most gruelling jobs.

As part of the overhaul, details of which were confirmed by White House officials yesterday, General John Allen, currently deputy head of US Central Command, will replace General Petraeus in Afghanistan. He will work with Ryan Crocker, one of America's most experienced diplomats, who is to become the new US envoy to Kabul.

Though sweeping at first glance, the reshuffle signals a continuation of present policies – underlining the administration's determination to bring the decade-long war in Afghanistan to a successful conclusion, and to press on with the reforms at the Pentagon initiated by Mr Gates.

From the moment Barack Obama persuaded him to stay on in November 2008, the outgoing Defence Secretary has indicated he would not serve out the new President's entire first term. The change-over this summer will allow the required Senate confirmation hearings to be held before the 2012 election campaign gets into full swing, making the atmosphere on Capitol Hill even more contentious.

Nonetheless, Mr Gates's departure will be a sore loss for Mr Obama. Calm-mannered, vastly experienced, and frequently described as a "grown-up" who stood above the ego-driven fray of Washington politics, he offered a complete change of style from his bullying, controversial predecessor Donald Rumsfeld, removed by Mr Bush 24 hours after the Republican drubbing at the November 2006 midterm elections. By then, feuding between the State Department and the Pentagon had become almost the norm in Washington, to the detriment of policy-making. By contrast, relations between Mr Gates and Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, have been exemplary, while Mr Gates has moved to cut military spending by trimming the huge bureaucracy that oversees the department's $700bn annual budget.

Under Mr Panetta, however, it is likely to be more of the same. The former congressman became White House budget director and then President Bill Clinton's chief of staff before earning plaudits at the CIA. He is as skilled a bureaucratic operator as Mr Gates and well-suited to head the defence department when deficit cutting is the priority.

General Petraeus's switch to the CIA also sends a clear message. As the Army's top specialist in counter-insurgency operations, he will bring that expertise to the CIA – which already plays a central role in fighting terrorism.

His prestige will also come as a re-assurance to the Agency itself, buffeted by endemic feuding within the US intelligence establishment and whose reputation has yet to fully recover from the twin disasters of failing to anticipate the 9/11 attacks, and of being duped into believing Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Some analysts saw political implications in the move. General Petraeus, the architect and executor of the troop "surge" that averted disaster in Iraq, has been credited intermittently with political ambitions, however adamantly he denies them. Under this theory, therefore, President Obama has moved to neutralise a potentially dangerous rival for 2012, especially when the existing Republican field seems so thin.

The background of General Allen, who now takes over command of the Afghan campaign, is in the Marines. But he too is a strategist with a finely tuned political ear. In Kabul, he will be able to draw on the experience of Mr Crocker, who worked with General Petraeus in Iraq as part of a "dream team" to haul the country back from the brink.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?