Obama set to shuffle national security team


From left to right: CIA Director Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Bob Gates, General David Petraeus.

At a time when America is continuing to scale down its involvement in Iraq, working to show substantial improvement in Afghanistan, and trying to complete its objectives in Libya, the Obama administration is set to announce a new lineup for its national security team. The President is planning to announce his nomination of CIA Director Leon Panetta to replace Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tomorrow, with confirmation hearings to follow soon after Gates steps down, according to Fox News:

A U.S. 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.

Gates’ departure from the Pentagon will also shake up other high-profile positions on the administration’s national security team. General David Petraeus, current US and NATO Commander in Afghanistan, will be tapped to replace Panetta as Director of the CIA. This move is not surprising, as Petraeus indicated to the press that he may be in contention for an Obama administration position. From CNN:

Petraeus, earlier this month, took a highly unusual step for a military officer when he publicly acknowledged the possibility of being in contention for a presidential appointment. “It’s probably not appropriate for me to comment on whatever might be considered down the road,” he told reporters in Kabul when asked about the possible CIA nomination. “I’ve had discussions, but again, it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment.”

Replacing Petraeus as commander in Afghanistan will be Lieutenant General John Allen, current Deputy Commander of US Central Command. The selection of Allen, who has never served in Afghanistan, has many scratching their heads, given the critical point in the war as the US plans for a gradual withdrawal of forces by 2014.

On the diplomatic aisle, former ambassador to Iraq and Pakistan Ryan Crocker is said to be the only person being considered to replace Karl Eikenberry as ambassador to Afghanistan. From ABC:

There is no set time limit for the ambassadorial job, but Eikenberry has told friends and others he is not likely to stay for a third year. He marks two years in the job this month. The White House began considering possible replacements several months ago, with an eye to Senate confirmation before summer.

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  • brian sweeting says:

    Allen is the Deputy Commander of USCENTCOM, GEN Mattis is the Commander now.

  • Wes Bruer says:

    Brian, you are correct. Thanks for the correction!

  • Charu says:

    This is not the time to pull Gen. Petraeus out of the field! He’s doing a much better job than Gen. McChrystal, and Amb. Crocker worked well with him in Iraq. The Pakistanis will be pleased to see him leave.

  • steve m says:

    With Gen. Petraeus becoming Director of the CIA, he will be dealing directly with Pakistan. I’m no expert, but I am thinking this is good news.

  • BullsEye says:

    The momentum is beginning to shift now and the Taliban are starting to really suffer big time. Al Qaeda is starting to have huge issues as well and now Petraeus is pulled from Afghanistan?
    Is this due to Obama caring more about his own political position than that of the military position in Afghanistan?
    If the war fails in Af-Pak this will be one of the big reasons why.

  • Jimmy says:

    Whoever is in command in the CIA or Af-Pak, it does not matter until they take Pakistan Army-ISI by the throat! Only it controls the reins to peace and terror alike. And no amount of cajoling with diplomacy or cash is going to win it over. Only a threat of balkanization of Pakistan will its eyes open. Read this piece in a strategic blog…

  • steve m says:

    With Gen. Petraeus becoming Director of the CIA, he will be dealing directly with Pakistan. I’m no expert, but I am thinking this is good news.

  • Villiger says:

    Kayani is making a big mistake in curbing the drone program, given its already restricted hum-print.
    When the next terror provocation comes i suspect there will be a flexing of the drone muscle which will widen the circle to Pak’s surprise. They are playing with fire instead of taking 2014 seriously.
    I simply don’t get Paks belligerence towards the US, 40+ countries that comprise ISAF, India, and so on. Kayani really believes in his own cleverness by half. Perhaps Kerry, Lugar and Co can explain to us what bang the US gets for its buck?

  • Charu says:

    Jane Perlez’s article in the NYT yesterday suggested that Gen. Petraeus at the helm of the CIA would raise tensions with Pakistan. At a gut level, if the Pakistanis are upset with this appointment then it must be a good thing. However, I still believe that Gen. Petraeus would be much more useful as the top commander of military forces in AfPak than as the head spook. If he had to be moved, why not into Adm. Mullen’s position?
    Reading between the lines of this article, I surmise that it was Gen. Kayani who was the unnamed senior Pakistani officer who insisted on using the label “Mr. Petraeus” to put down the US commander. This is ironic in so many ways, not the least being how the Pakistani tinpot Generals have routinely meddled in the politics of their failed state.
    The Pakistanis also seem to have latched onto China as a savior to help them eat their cake in Afghanistan and have it. Whether this has been encouraged by the PLA, or it is just more delusional grandstanding by Pakistan, remains to be seen; but I’m leaning towards the later interpretation going by the number of times that the Pakistanis have repeatedly misjudged how other nations respond to their rogue acts of brinkmanship.
    I hope that Gen. Petraeus’s CIA will see that the central problem in AfPak is with Pakistan’s Punjabi Junkers, and that it can only get solved by isolating them and cutting their “empire” down to size. This will, at the very minimum, require Afghanistan to have access to the Indian Ocean that is independent of Pakistan. Secondly, the long-overdue removal of the Durand line and reuniting the Pashtuns may give them something else to be preoccupied with. Ownership of their own tribal-state (with shared access to the sea along with other non-Punjabi AfPak tribal-states) could give them something more positive to strive for than the al Qaeda/Taliban dead end currently offered to them by the Punjabi Junkers.
    It will be a fitting end for Gen Kayani and his bemedaled friends to sit with their precious nukes in a landlocked rump Punjabi state, and linked to China via Gilgit. They could even become another “republic” of their all-weather friends; just like the Uighurs, Mongolians, and Tibetans before them. A brave new world(order)!

  • Mr. Wolf says:

    This is a good shake-up. With the General moving to DC, he can direct ops and detect AQ around the region without anymore restrictions on turf. With the civi going to the P we will see smaller fighting forces, larger footprints, and LOTS of DC doublespeak; which keeps troops in the field paid, and food on their families’ tables.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @Charu: I’ve read reports that Petraeus had planned on leaving the ISAF command position at the end of the “summer fighting season” long before this move. He’s spent much of the last decade bouncing between commands in the U.S., Iraq and Afghanistan and reportedly suffers chronic back problems and migraines and probably just desires some structure and family in his life.

  • villiger says:

    Charu, i agree with you on all counts. But, who in DC is listening?
    Very recently i was speaking with a very senior, seasoned Indian diplomat who told me that, “the problem is that the (pro) Pak lobby in DC was very strong.”
    Shocked, my first reaction was, how could that be?!?
    When one goes deeper, one sees that DC is entrenched with people like Kerry and Lugar who actually believe that the Pakis are their allies, and so go on and on and on in bolstering them.
    So as i said at the time of the Davis affair “I don’t believe the Davis case to be a test of the US-Pak relationship as much as a test of the US’s will to do something radical about it. And that doesn’t mean throwing more money at them.”
    Read more: https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/02/analysis_gap_in_paki.php#comments#ixzz1L155vd2S
    The diplomat justified his observation by saying that the US has power over Pakistan but refuses to use it. EG continuing to give Pakistan more and more money, instead of using money-power to get Pakistan on track.
    With that backdrop, the new team is a plus. I don’t perceive either of them to be pro-Pakistan. We’ll see.
    In the meantime the stalemate that the US has continues.
    At a strategic level i find many of us here, me included, keep repeating the same refrain over and over again. I’ve kinda decided that its getting quite boring…

    Here’s another comment i made back in feb 16:
    “The US’s overarching strategy in AfPak refusing to recognize and address its failure in gaining effective Pakistani cooperation is a weakness that renders the whole strategy, sorry to say, utterly futile. Its a shambles. And ‘Davis’s’ handful of bullets is showing that up.
    Its like the US has been running to stay on pretty much the same spot. But not the money, that river keeps flowing, where to? no one really knows.
    Now let’s talk about the weather….”
    Read more: https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/02/analysis_gap_in_paki.php#comments#ixzz1L18lzh3U

  • Soccer says:

    Pakistan is finished. It pretty much IS a failed state; it is only a matter of time before it is recognized internationally as such.
    I personally know a Punjabi girl, and she is very proud and arrogant about the Punjabi culture and people. She believes that it is OK for Pakistan to fund terrorism as long as the Punjabi people benefit in the end.
    Pakistan already has very little access to water and electricity; basic needs for living. I’d say give them another 5 years before this doublespeak geopolitical chess board game they play comes crashing down on their heads.
    I don’t mean to sound discriminatory, but it is pretty obvious that the Punjabi ethnicity, and the Punjabi elites, are at the least turning a blind eye to the terrorism in the region because they think it can benefit them in the end. Pakistan wants a Pakistan-friendly Afghan Taliban; an ally, if you will. They don’t want a truly independent Pashtun state. Therefore, they maintain their connections with the Al Qaeda linked groups so they can use them as a “proxy” for Afghanistan and India. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.

  • Charu says:

    @villiger, Jeff Smith recently wrote a powerful article (Why Pakistan will betray us) in The Washington Times. He ended with: “(Pakistan) is blind to the real threat to its strategic interests: a fundamental split with the United States. Ten years of supporting America

  • indus says:

    This shuffle, it appears, is meant to enable transition from Obama/military policy in Afghanistan to Biden policy, which would help accomplish reduction in size of our military there; thereby cutting our reliance on supply lines through Pakistan. Recall that Biden wanted to focus on AQ high command and quit worrying about Taliban and riff-raff, and not be too concerned whether Afghanistan wanted to exist in the 7th century or 21st. No more of that nation building!
    By moving Petraeus to CIA, Obama is accomplishing two things at once: a) having a strong leader at CIA who will pursue AQ bigwigs in the entire AfPak belt, without worrying too much about what the defacto dictator of Pakistan, Gen Kayani, thinks or can do to our supply lines running through his country; and b) eliminating ground resistance he would have encountered from Petraeus/military in any substantial removal of military from Afghanistan. Crocker’s appointment, who implemented the downsizing of military in Iraq, reinforces this viewpoint. Crocker would essentially help establish a fortress/embassy/base(s) in Afghanistan that would help limited objective of flying drones or supporting special forces and ensuring, with reduced military presence, that country is not run over by Pakistan or its stooges.
    AQ objective can be pursued with vigor as by now we have enough CIA presence both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, much to chagrin of Gen Kayani.

  • J-dub says:

    Amazed at the Kool-Aid drinkers on here. Afghanistan is the way it because of Petraeus and his rules of engagement and the political input and oversight by DoS. Momentum is not shifting in Afghanistan or Pakistan…it continues to go the way AQ, the Taliban, and all their associates want it to; so why do we think changing leadership is a good thing? This is merely a shuffle of the typical politicians.


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