Panetta tapped to re­place Gates at Pen­tagon

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ELI LAKE

Pres­i­dent Obama has picked CIA Di­rec­tor Leon E. Panetta to re­place holdover De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates in the next two months and will move the top Afghanistan War com­man­der, Gen. David H. Pe­traeus, to take the se­nior in­tel­li­gence post in a ma­jor shift of na­tional se­cu­rity aides.

The nom­i­na­tions are part of a larger shuf­fle of the pres­i­dent’s war cabi­net as he gears up for the 2012 elec­tion.

The changes will bring new of­fi­cials to the top po­si­tions in the U.S. mil­i­tary as the United States grap­ples with three low-level wars, in­clud­ing a re­place­ment for Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The de­ci­sion to re­place Mr. Gates — who took over the top Pen­tagon slot af­ter the 2006 elec­tions when Democrats re­gained con­trol of Congress — shows Mr. Obama is look­ing for a closer ally to lead the Pen­tagon, al­though Mr. Gates re­port­edly lob­bied for Mr. Panetta, a cen­trist Demo­crat, to be his re­place­ment.

Mr. Panetta has worked qui­etly at the CIA with the dif­fi­cult task of work­ing with Pak­istan’s pow­er­ful in­tel­li­gence ser­vice in sup­port­ing the agency’s covert role in the war on terrorism in South­west Asia, which has in­cluded large-scale use of armed drone air­craft at­tacks on al Qaeda.

He be­came a trusted ad­viser to Mr. Obama and made nu­mer­ous vis­its to Pak­istan to man­age the fray­ing in­tel­li­gence re­la­tion­ship with Islamabad.

Mr. Gates made known his de­sire to step down sev­eral months ago and re­cently made pub­lic his op­po­si­tion to U.S. in­volve­ment in the air war over Libya dur­ing con­gres­sional tes­ti­mony. The tes­ti­mony was given as the White House sought to build po­lit­i­cal sup­port for what it has called a hu­man­i­tar­ian in­ter­ven­tion.

Mr. Gates also has stated that he op­poses deeper bud­get cuts by the ad­min­is­tra­tion in de­fense spend­ing than those he an­nounced ear­lier this year.

“The sum to­tal of these picks is that the pres­i­dent has cho­sen ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple with unique ca­pa­bil­i­ties to serve our nation at a dan­ger­ous time,” Sen. Lind­sey Graham, South Carolina Repub­li­can, said in a key Repub­li­can en­dorse­ment. “I could not be more pleased with these se­lec­tions.”

The ap­point­ment of a sec­ond in­tel­li­gence chief to head the Pen­tagon — Mr. Gates is a for­mer CIA di­rec­tor — also is a sign that the pres­i­dent is con­tin­u­ing to em­pha­size in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions and covert ac­tion over con­ven­tional mili- tary ac­tiv­i­ties in the global war on terrorism since the at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Mr. Gates’ ten­ure at the Pen­tagon was marked by ef­forts to shift the strate­gic fo­cus of the mil­i­tary from waging ma­jor con­ven­tional wars to coun­terin­sur­gency and coun­tert­er­ror­ism. In do­ing so, he clashed with se­nior mil­i­tary lead­ers and ended up fir­ing sev­eral se­nior gen­er­als and se­nior de­fense of­fi­cials.

Send­ing a wartime com­man­der, Gen. Pe­traeus, to head the CIA also high­lights the closer links be­tween mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions in the war against terrorism.

“Putting a mil­i­tary guy in charge of the agency is as ef­fec­tive as putting an in­tel­li­gence guy in charge of the Depart­ment of De­fense,” said Rick Nel­son, a se­nior fel­low at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

“They work so closely to­gether, it is im­por­tant to forge that re­la­tion­ship through this kind of ap­point­ment. They are de­pen­dent on each other.”

For­mer Sen. Christo­pher S. Bond, who served as vice chair­man of the Se­nate Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence un­til De­cem­ber, said he was pleased with both se­lec­tions.

“Pe­traeus as a user of in­tel­li­gence would bring a great sense of how the agency can bet­ter help the war fight­ers,” the Mis­souri Repub­li­can said. “I also hope he un­der­stands, and I am sure he does, the broader mis­sion of the agency, to ser ve the pol­i­cy­mak­ers, where the mil­i­tary may not be di­rectly in­volved.”

Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat and chair­woman of the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence panel, said she looked for­ward to hear­ing Gen. Pe­traeus’ vi­sion for the agency.

“He is clearly a very ac­com­plished of­fi­cer and fa­mil­iar with the parts of the world where many of the threats to our se­cu­rity orig­i­nate,” she said. “But that is a dif­fer­ent role than lead­ing the top civil­ian in­tel­li­gence agency. I look for­ward to hear­ing his vi­sion for the CIA and his plans to make sure the CIA is col­lect­ing the type of in­tel­li­gence that pol­i­cy­mak­ers need.”

Louis Tucker, who served as the mi­nor­ity staff di­rec­tor on the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence panel un­til Jan­uary, said Mr. Panetta was a good choice for the Pen­tagon, which still con­trols most of the ex­e­cu­tion au­thor­ity of the $80 bil­lion an­nual in­tel­li­gence bud­get for the 16 civil­ian and mil­i­tary agen­cies.

“This pick is a lit­tle sur­pris­ing,” said Mr. Tucker. “I thought Panetta was well placed at the agency and do­ing a great job. He is one of the best in the ad­min­is­tra­tion we have at the se­nior level of the gov­ern­ment in na­tional se­cu­rity and de­fense, so I am sure he will do a good job at the Pen­tagon.”

Mr. Panetta’s record at the CIA is mixed. He is leav­ing the job with the strate­gic U.S.-Pak­istani in­tel­li­gence re­la­tion­ship se­verely strained. At the same time, he over­saw a drone war in Pak­istan that the CIA has said has killed or forced into hid­ing se­nior al Qaeda lead­ers.

Dur­ing Mr. Panetta’s ten­ure, the CIA also dis­cov­ered a clan­des­tine nu­clear fa­cil­ity in Iran out­side of Qom.

Mr. Panetta pre­vailed over Mr. Obama’s first di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence, Den­nis C. Blair, in a bu­reau­cratic battle over the top in­tel­li­gence rep­re­sen­ta­tive at U.S. em­bassies. That per­son will re­main the CIA sta­tion chief and not a sep­a­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence as Mr. Blair had wanted.

Gen. Pe­traeus, com­man­der of the In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity As­sis­tance Force in Afghanistan, has had a mixed re­la­tion­ship with the CIA over the years. Af­ter he took charge of Multi­Na­tional Forces Iraq, Gen. Pe­traeus as­serted his au­thor­ity as com­bat com­man­der to be briefed on and ap­prove all CIA ac­tiv­i­ties in Iraq.

One for­mer se­nior U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial said, how­ever, that in Iraq, Gen. Pe­traeus was grate­ful for the CIA’s work in un- cov­er­ing the sup­ply chain to Iran of deadly im­pro­vised ex­plo­sives that were the ma­jor killers of U.S. forces in the coun­try at the time.

In Afghanistan, Gen. Pe­traeus clashed with the CIA over the mis­sion of the war. The four-star gen­eral sup­ported a coun­terin­sur­gency strat­egy that re­lied on the es­tab­lish­ment of cred­i­ble and trusted lo­cal and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions as a way to win sup­port of the pop­u­la­tion from el­e­ments of the Tal­iban.

The CIA — which since Sept. 11 has cul­ti­vated re­la­tion­ships with many war­lords, such as Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai’s brother, Ah­mad Wali Karzai — fa­vored a coun­tert­er­ror­ism strat­egy that re­lied on good re­la­tions with those war­lords.

The ten­sions be­tween Gen. Pe­traeus and the agency in Afghanistan, how­ever, have been muted in re­cent months, said two U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials who asked not be quoted by name.

“David Pe­traeus came to un­der­stand how the CIA could work closely with spe­cial forces in Afghanistan. That com­bi­na­tion has be­come one of the main ham­mers in the war to­day,” one such mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said.

Mr. Panetta, pend­ing con­fir­ma­tion, is sched­uled to take over the Pen­tagon by July. Gen. Pe­traeus is ex­pected to as­sume his po­si­tion at the CIA in Septem­ber.


Pend­ing Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion, CIA Di­rec­tor Leon E. Panetta (left) is ex­pected to take the helm at the Pen­tagon by July. Gen. David H. Pe­traeus is ex­pected to as­sume his du­ties at the CIA in Septem­ber.

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