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General Petraeus, war 'hero' in Iraq, to lead CIA

Gates to leave Pentagon June 30: official
Washington (AFP) April 27, 2011 - US Defense Secretary Robert Gates will wrap up his near five-year tour at the Pentagon on June 30, a senior Obama administration official said Wednesday.

Current CIA director Leon Panetta, who President Barack Obama has selected to replace Gates, will take up his duties the following day, assuming he is confirmed by the US Senate, the official said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Gates would go likely go down in history as likely "one of the best" defense secretaries to serve a president of the United States.

Gates took office in December 2006 during the Republican administration of president George W. Bush, and was asked to stay on by Obama, and has been a hugely influential member of the new US leader's national security team.

The official said that Panetta, a former congressman and White House chief of staff, would bring decades of experience both inside and outside Washington to his new job.

He also confided that Panetta had not wanted to leave the CIA, but had decided he had to heed Obama's call.

"Leon loved being director of the CIA and it shows. It was a difficult decision for him to leave the agency."

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 27, 2011
General David Petraeus, named to take charge of the CIA, emerged as America's most dominant military officer in the Iraq war and has tried to turn around another troubled mission in Afghanistan.

With a high profile and an acute intellect, the four-star general is revered by some as a hero, but his detractors on the left portray him as an overly ambitious "King David" with designs on the presidency.

In Iraq, Petraeus has been credited in Washington for arresting the country's slide into all-out civil war in 2007, salvaging a US mission that appeared headed for collapse.

The success of the troop surge in Iraq is still under debate, but Petraeus has tried a similar approach to counter-insurgency in Afghanistan, backed up by a buildup of some 30,000 American troops.

After nearly a year as commander of the US-led international force in Afghanistan, Petraeus has claimed progress against the Taliban as NATO-led forces have rolled back the insurgents in the south while Afghan security forces have expanded.

But the general's legacy in Afghanistan remains an open question, with the Kabul government tainted by corruption as the United States prepares to begin a gradual withdrawal of its 100,000 troops in July.

His relations with Obama's civilian aides have been strained at times, particularly during a protracted White House debate in 2009 over war strategy in Afghanistan.

Some of Obama's advisers believed Petraeus and the military were trying to "box in" the president, pushing hard for a troop surge and discounting other options, according to reporter Bob Woodward's account, "Obama's War."

Until his name came up for the CIA job, some of the general's supporters feared Petraeus would be passed over for important posts after finishing his tenure in Afghanistan later this year.

By nominating Petraeus to the CIA job, Obama chose not to have the general serve as the military's top-ranking officer.

That post, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, comes open in September and media reports have speculated that General James Cartwright, now the vice-chairman, will likely get the nomination.

In Woodward's book, Cartwright is described as the president's "favorite general."

Some former CIA officials and analysts have described Petraeus as a perfect fit for the spy agency, citing his work with intelligence operatives battling Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, as well as his experience in Washington's policy debates.

"General Petraeus would be an exceptional choice to run the CIA," said Bruce Riedel, an ex-CIA officer and fellow at the Brookings Institution.

"He has unique experience at the front line in the war against Al-Qaeda and in the inter-agency process in Washington that would be invaluable" as a CIA director, he said.

The 101st Airborne Division paratrooper, who rewrote the Army's manual for counter-insurgency warfare, is a keen athlete who twice escaped death, once when he was shot accidentally during training and then during a parachute jump which went wrong.

No US general since William Westmoreland during the Vietnam War has been so influential or prominent.

The son of a Dutch sea captain, Petraeus, 58, has long been a star in the military.

Intensely competitive, he graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1974, was the top of his 1983 class at the US Army Command and General Staff College, and went on to earn a doctorate in international relations at Princeton University.

He commanded the 101st Airborne Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and quickly secured the northern region around Mosul.

Petraeus later headed up the troubled US effort to train and field Iraqi security forces, and then returned to the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to oversee the writing of a new manual for counter-insurgency warfare.

It was from that position that former president George W. Bush tapped Petraeus to lead the faltering campaign in Iraq in January 2007.

His televised appearances before a restive Congress during his Iraq stint made for dramatic scenes, with the general keeping his cool during tense exchanges with war critics.

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China's army chief of staff to visit US in May
Beijing (AFP) April 27, 2011
China's army chief of staff will visit the United States in mid-May, the defence ministry said Wednesday, as the two countries try to bolster military relations despite their growing rivalry. "Chen Bingde will pay an official, friendly visit to the United States from May 15 to 22," spokesman Geng Yansheng told reporters at the ministry's first monthly briefing, held in what it said was a mov ... read more

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