Petraeus to CIA; regime change on agenda?

The Obama administration announced April 27 that CIA director Leon Panetta is to become defense secretary, replacing the retiring Robert Gates (himself a former CIA director), while the new CIA director will be Gen. David Petraeus, currently US commander in Afghanistan and formerly the architect of the Iraq “surge” as chief of Central Command. Analyzes the New York Times:

General Petraeus is the leading advocate of the ambitious counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, which seeks to build up the country’s political and administrative institutions. Mr. Panetta is viewed as having favored a more limited counterterrorism approach focused mainly on fighting insurgents. At the C.I.A., he has overseen a sharp increase in clandestine drone strikes in Pakistan, a growing source of tension between the United States and the Pakistani government…

The reshuffling comes as Mr. Obama is making a critical decision about how many of the roughly 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan to withdraw starting this summer.

In another analysis, the New York Times took note of the militarization of intelligence already underway by Panetta and Petraeus in their current positions, again making note of the drone campaign:

As C.I.A. director, Mr. Panetta hastened the transformation of the spy agency into a paramilitary organization, overseeing a sharp escalation of the C.I.A.s bombing campaign in Pakistan using armed drone aircraft, and an increase in the number of secret bases and covert operatives in remote parts of Afghanistan.

General Petraeus, meanwhile, has aggressively pushed the military deeper into the C.I.A.’s turf, using Special Operations troops and private security contractors to conduct secret intelligence missions. As commander of the United States Central Command in September 2009, he also signed a classified order authorizing American Special Operations troops to collect intelligence in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran and other places outside of traditional war zones.

The result is that American military and intelligence operatives are at times virtually indistinguishable from each other as they carry out classified operations in the Middle East and Central Asia…

We noted last year, when Petraeus replaced Stanley McChrystal as commander of US forces in Afghanistan, that many viewed this as a tilt back to the Bush-era neocons by the Obama administration. We now note that his ascension to Langley comes just as the administration has explicitly taken on a regime change project in Libya.

See our last posts on Afghanistan, the neocons and the politics of the GWOT.

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