Petraeus leaving US Army for CIA top job

2011-08-31 08:36
Washington - General David Petraeus is bidding farewell to the US Army that has been his life and the troops that have been his family for 37 years.

America's best-known general is taking off his uniform before starting a new chapter as the 20th director of the CIA next week, where he will keep waging war on al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, but in a far different form.

The soldier-scholar-statesman is to be sworn in as the nation's spy chief on September 6, less than a week before the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3 000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

It's a sharp and unexpected career turn for the man many thought would ultimately become the top officer in the land - chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - after six command assignments, including four in war zones. He is credited with turning around the Iraq war and helping pivot the still uncertain campaign in Afghanistan.

Not staying in uniform

Instead, President Barack Obama asked him to take over at CIA as part of a major shuffle of top national security officials that included Leon Panetta moving from CIA director to succeed the retiring Robert Gates at the Pentagon.

Close friends and colleagues of Petraeus say that when he realised the White House would not make him chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he saw CIA as the best alternative.

"I wanted this job," he told senators at his confirmation hearing, saying he had discussed the CIA post with the Obama administration for months.

Although he could have stayed in uniform at the CIA, Petraeus, 58, chose to shed it to avoid what some might see as the militarisation of intelligence.

"I have a certain profile in various parts of the world," he told the Pentagon Channel in an interview in August.

"And were I to travel there in uniform, it might create some confusion, frankly, as, you know, 'Who is this guy? He's still in uniform. Is he the director of the CIA or is he actually something else?'"

‘One of the US great battle captains’

Petraeus soared to public acclaim in 2007-08 with his surprising success in reversing an escalation of insurgent violence in Iraq.

At a September 2008 ceremony in Baghdad marking the end of Petraeus' 19 months in command, Gates credited him with dealing a "tremendous, if not mortal, blow" to an insurgency that two years earlier seemed beyond US or Iraqi government control.

"I believe history will regard you as one of our nation's great battle captains," Gates told Petraeus.

Petraeus is credited with similarly solidifying gains against the Taliban in Afghanistan, though he himself says progress there is "fragile and reversible".
- AP
Read more on:    david petraeus  |  us
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