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CIA's Panetta to lead Defense department

28 april 2011, 12:03
In a major shakeup of President Barack Obama's national security team, CIA director Leon Panetta will become the new Pentagon chief secretary this summer, a US official told AFP Wednesday.

ABC and NBC television reported meanwhile that General David Petraeus will replace Gates at the helm of the US spy agency.

The US official said Panetta is to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whose tenure began under Obama's predecessor George W. Bush. Gates had said he plans to step down later this year.

If he receives Senate confirmation to the top Pentagon post, Panetta would be the first Democrat to hold the top US defense job since William Perry in 1997.

The television networks reported that Petraeus, the commander leading military operations in Afghanistan, will be replaced there by Lieutenant General John Allen, who currently is deputy head of US Central Command.

Meanwhile Ryan Crocker, a former US diplomat who served as ambassador in Pakistan and Iraq, will replace Ambassador Karl Eikenberry in Kabul, the reports said.

The White House on Wednesday declined comment about the reports.

The reshuffling of the president's top echelon of security officials was floated weeks ago by the administration.

The overhaul highlights the tough choices Obama faces with a number of crucial national security jobs -- including defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- coming open in the next several months.

In addition to Gates's departure, the military's top officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, finishes his term in September and Petraeus was long expected wrap up his tenure in Afghanistan by year's end.

Panetta -- who enjoys solid bipartisan support in Congress -- emerged as a strong candidate to succeed Gates as Pentagon chief after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared she had no interest in the job.

Some former CIA officials and analysts have touted Petraeus as a perfect fit for the spy agency, citing his work with intelligence operatives battling Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere, as well as his experience in Washington's policy debates.

"General Petraeus would be an exceptional choice to run the CIA," Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and fellow at the Brookings Institution, told AFP recently, as rumors swirled about the possible shuffle.

"He has unique experience at the front line in the war against Al-Qaeda and in the inter-agency process in Washington that would be invaluable" as a CIA director, he said.

Petraeus, a high profile, four-star general with a high-powered intellect has been widely credited in Washington for helping to salvage the war effort in Iraq in 2007-2008.

The 101st Airborne Division paratrooper, who rewrote the Army's manual for counter-insurgency warfare, oversaw a surge of US troops in Iraq at a time of spiraling sectarian violence.

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