Is General David Petraeus headed to the CIA?


Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, participates in a House Armed Services Committee hearing, March 16, 2011 in Washington, DC.


Mark Wilson

WASHINGTON — What the future holds for General David Petraeus when he winds down his command in Afghanistan later this year is buzzing through the corridors of the Pentagon, the White House and now the CIA.

One high-level security official here recently confirmed for GlobalPost that it was a “distinct possibility” that Petraeus would be picked to head the CIA.

Last night, a second well-placed source confirmed for GlobalPost that it was being discussed, but he was not sure how seriously. Today NPR reported that Petraeus was being “seriously considered” for the position of CIA director.

So the rumor mill is buzzing. For months, the speculation has been that Petraeus would land the job as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But the wind seems to be shifting.

The reshuffle at the top of the security establishment would be this: current CIA director Leon Panetta would likely replace Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who is expected to step down later this year. That would leave the CIA job open and the political geometry here is that President Barack Obama would then call upon Petraeus to take the helm at Langley. That would be one way, as one political observer put it, to "ensure that Petraeus does not cast his eye toward the White House."

While there is general consensus that Petraeus, who has had six different field commands in Iraq and Afghanistan, will step down at the end of the year, there is less certainty about what he will do next. Those who know him well consistently dismiss any suggestion that he would run for president. And military officials around Petraeus have been tight-lipped on any questions regarding his future.

On a trip to Afghanistan last month, Petraeus’ spokesman, Col. Erik Gunhus, dismissed any questions about the general’s future. Petraeus himself seemed very focused on the task ahead as the fighting season gets underway in Afghanistan in what is shaping up to be the most pivotal year of the decade-long Afghan campaign.