Leon Panetta, currently the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is tipped to replace Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense in the near future. The Obama administration is said to be replacing Panetta with General David Petraeus, commander of allied forces in Afghanistan. Robert Gates, retained from the Bush administration, wants to depart his post this summer.
Defense secretary retiring after five years
The Obama administration is having to do some personnel shuffling as a new Secretary of Defense will have to be chosen when Robert Gates leaves the position this summer. Gates, according to the Los Angeles Times, announced his intention to leave in 2011 last year. Leon Panetta, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has been announced as his successor. Gates became the Secretary of Defense in 2006, when he replaced Donald Rumsfeld in the George W. Bush administration after Rumsfeld resigned, but was retained by the Obama administration in order to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Top general to become top spy
Panetta will be replaced as Director of the CIA by General David Petraeus. Petraeus is currently the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and assumed the post after General Stanley McChrystal resigned in 2010. Petraeus is rumored to be succeeded by Marine Lieutenant General John Allen, according to the Washington Post. Panetta, who has served with some distinction in his role as head of the CIA, is known for his tenure as Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration. Panetta is expected to commit to major cost cutting and slimming operations as the head of the Defense department. It is unusual to recruit a Defense Secretary from the intelligence community, and especially the CIA, as the last person to be promoted to Defense Secretary from the CIA was James Schlesinger in 1973.
Difficult transitions ahead
There are significant challenges facing the Defense Department in the next few years. By the end of 2011, all U.S. forces are due to have been withdrawn from Iraq. Troops are also set to be withdrawn from Afghanistan, according to ABC, as American operations will begin winding down in advance of a total withdrawal in 2014. However, no significant troop withdrawal is likely in Afghanistan until fighting season begins. Hostilities between American and NATO forces and the Taliban usually do not begin until after the poppy harvest. Afghanistan is believed to be the world’s largest supplier of opium for pharmaceutical purposes, and also for the illicit heroin trade.
Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/sc-dc-obama-panetta-defense-20110427,0,454141.story?track=rss
Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/obama-to-nominate-cia-director-leon-panetta-as-defense-secretary/2011/04/27/AFRoxeyE_story.html
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