Barack Obama’s Defense Overhaul ‘Risks Blurring Line between Military and Spying’

April 30th, 2011 - by admin

Toby Harnden / The Telegraph – 2011-04-30 14:43:08

WASHINGTON (April 28, 2011) — Mr Obama was preparing last night to announce that Leon Panetta, the current Central Intelligence Agency director, would take over the Pentagon in July. Replacing him at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia will be General David Petraeus, current commander in Afghanistan.

“Petraeus is an inspiring figure and has more breadth and acumen that almost any other general,” said a former CIA officer. “But he’s an Army man through and through.

“Panetta’s an accomplished bureaucrat whose only national security experience has been at CIA. Now he’ll be in charge of a military engaged in multiple wars. It makes you wonder the President thinks spying and fighting is the same thing.”

The other two pieces of the national security jigsaw will see Gen John Allen of the US Marine Corps take over from Gen Petraeus in Kabul in September and Ryan Crocker, former US ambassador to Iraq, become the top American diplomat there.

Although the appointments have provoked grumbling from some CIA veterans, they have been broadly welcomed by Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill as representing continuity and rewarding experience and expertise.

Robert Gates, the current US Defense Secretary, in post since 2006 and the only member of President George W Bush’s cabinet to keep his job under Mr Obama, was another former CIA director.

Gen Petraeus, the most celebrated military officer in the US since Gen Colin Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Gulf War, will retire from the US Army to take up his CIA post, in part to blunt concerns about the militarisation of intelligence.

But despite the precedents and the fact that Gen Petraeus will don a business suit for work, this is the first time in 28 years that a CIA director has gone straight to the Pentagon and it is more than 60 years since a US Army officer has become America’s top spy.

There was a 13-year gap between Mr Gates’s leadership of the CIA and his appointment to head the Pentagon while Gen Hayden was a long-time intelligence specialist, in stark contrast to Gen Petraeus’s mainstream military career.

CIA paramilitary officers work on the ground in Afghanistan and elsewhere alongside US Special Forces teams. There has been very close co-ordination between the CIA and military over drone strikes in Pakistan, a campaign stepped up by Mr Obama and with which Gen Petraeus is intimately familiar.

Gen Petraeus is said to have discreetly lobbied for the CIA post but some Republicans and military officers view Mr Obama’s selection of him for the intelligence job as a way of neutralising a rival.

Some White House officials view Gen Petraeus as having been too close to Mr Bush and there were fears among Democrats that he could challenge Mr Obama for the presidency in 2012.

The most natural job for Gen Petraeus would have been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but Mr Obama did not consider him for this because he feared the general might become an alternative source of power, as Gen Powell appeared to be after the Gulf War.

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