Petraeus arrives in Langley
CIA Director David Petraeus will get the keys to the Director’s Washroom, his new ID badge, and who knows what kind of other super-secret equipment on Tuesday when he’s sworn in to his new job running the Central Intelligence Agency. Citizen Petraeus is a Washington Guy In A Suit now — his Army uniform, with its four suns and square yard of ribbons, now is consigned to the coat closet, or perhaps the West Point museum. The world’s most famous general is just like the rest of us now, crawling down the Beltway at 5 miles per hour, trying to drive with his knees while he talks on his Bluetooth and sends an email on his BlackBerry, cursing himself for not trying to get away before 4 to beat the traffic. Or maybe not.
But if Petraeus doesn’t spend his days at CIA cursing the Metro Orange Line extension to Dulles, what will he be doing? Killing a lot of bad guys, for one. After the many roles it has tried since its founding, the Agency seems to have settled most eagerly on its current one as America’s high-tech clandestine assassin, working with the rest of the intelligence community alphabet soup to track and find terrorists, then eliminating them with Predator strikes or special operations raids. CIA has gotten so good at this, in fact, that the arrival of the former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan this week might fuel worries about the ‘militarization’ of the Agency, write Reuters’ Phil Stewart and Mark Hosenball:
Petraeus attempted to address the issue head-on at his confirmation hearing in June, saying one of the reasons he was retiring from the military — even though no law compelled him to do so — was to allay concerns about the militarization of the CIA. He also said he would seek to represent the “Agency position” on matters including the war in Afghanistan.
“Beyond that, I have no plans to bring my military brain trust with me to the agency,” Petraeus said at the time. “There is no shortage of impressive individuals at the agency, and I look forward to interacting with them and populating my office with them.” … “If confirmed, I will, in short, get out of my vehicle alone on the day that I report to Langley.”
So P4 isn’t taking his Army crew with him, but that doesn’t mean he won’t do things his way. In fact, as AP Kimberly Dozier writes, the White House is hoping Petraeus finds CIA such an absorbing challenge that it sucks him in, and he has no time to make waves about Afghanistan:
Admirers and detractors alike are watching to see whether Petraeus will use his influence with the media and Capitol Hill to pursue policies discordant to the White House officials who disagreed with him over the course of the Afghan war.
At a time when top figures close to President Barack Obama were arguing for a troop drawdown, Petraeus helped persuade Obama to increase troops in Afghanistan in a repeat of his counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq — a strategy now credited with producing tangible if fragile progress. That ran counter to the strategy favored by Vice President Joe Biden, among others, to leave the job to a much smaller force of trainers and special operations troops to hunt terrorists.
Similarly, there is some unease among intelligence officials as Petraeus assumes leadership of an organization that has produced a series of grim assessments of conditions in Afghanistan, where the general oversaw the war directly or indirectly for more than four years. Petraeus has acknowledged differences with CIA analysts in the past, saying in Senate testimony that he thought the analysts were forced to rely on data at least six weeks old; He thought that skewed their analysis, whereas his battlefield data had been more current.
The most recent CIA assessment of the Afghan war could be used to either back or declaim Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy, which advocated a surge of troops to protect the Afghans and buy time to build a local force to do the same. The analysis predicted a grim, continued stalemate in fighting with the Taliban, according to one current and one former U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters.
But Petraeus has a new rice bowl now — he’s no longer the guy on the hook for the state of allied forces in Afghanistan. Now much of what he’ll do will be out of the public view, and focused on al Qaeda, as opposed to the Taliban. What’ll be very interesting to see is how much that new perspective affects Petraeus’ views on the withdrawal.