As part of a major national security shake-up, President Barack Obama is expected to nominate CIA Director Leon Panetta to the Pentagon to replace Robert Gates, and have Gen. David Petraeus fill in Panetta’s current position at the spy agency.
With both Petraeus and Gates leaving their posts, Obama’s goal of a planned reduction of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in July seems more on track. Petraeus was the top U.S. commander of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and Gates oversaw the turnaround of the Iraq war under President George W. Bush and the expansion of the Afghanistan war under Obama.
The changes also enable Obama to replace the Republican Gates with a Democrat with partisan credentials. Gates, the well-praised secretary of defense since 2006, is planning to retire on June 30 at age 67, AFP reported, citing a senior Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity since the president has not yet announced the changes.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on the nominations at a press briefing, but said that Obama will officially address the “questions about personnel” on Thursday.
Obama’s announcements will also include a new ambassador in Afghanistan—most likely diplomat Ryan Crocker, and Lt. Gen. John Allen to succeed Petraeus, according to The Associated Press.
The appointment of Petraeus will diminish speculation that the 58-year-old military commander might be exploring a 2012 Republican presidential bid, as Republican voters tend to not favor GOP candidates who have served in a Democratic administration.