Washington: General David H Petraeus, who has served as commander in two wars launched by the United States after the 9/11 attacks, would effectively take command of a third - in Pakistan, a US newspaper has said.
“David’s extraordinary knowledge of the Middle East and Afghanistan uniquely positions him to lead the agency in its effort to defeat al Qaeda. In short, just as General Petraeus changed the way that our military fights and wins wars in the 21st century, I have no doubt that Director Petraeus will guide our intelligence professionals as they continue to adapt and innovate in an ever changing world,” US President Barack Obama said as he nominated Petraeus to take over from Leon Panetta as Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director.
Since Obama took office, there have been at least 192 drone missile strikes, killing as many as 1,890 militants, suspected terrorists and civilians. Petraeus is seen as a staunch supporter of the drone campaign, even though it has so far failed to eliminate the al Qaeda threat or turn the tide of the Afghan war, The Washington Post reports.
But if Petraeus is ideally suited to lead an increasingly militarised CIA, it is less clear whether he will be equally adept at managing the political, analytical and even diplomatic dimensions of the job, the report said.
His nomination coincides with new strains in the CIA’s relationship with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and a chaotic reshuffling of the political landscape in the Middle East.
“I think in a lot of ways General Petraeus is the right guy for the agency given the way in which the operational side of the house has really increased” since the September 11  attacks, said Andrew Exum, a military expert at Centre for a New American Security, who has also served as an adviser to Petraeus’s staff.
“Having said that, I think where General Petraeus will struggle will be looking at the broader global responsibilities of intelligence,” he added.
For Petraeus, Pakistan is likely to be a particularly nettlesome trouble spot, as a series of recent ruptures- including the arrest of a CIA contractor in Pakistan on double murder charges- have undermined cooperation against al Qaeda and prompted threats by Pakistan to place new limits on drone strikes, the report said.
Petraeus has been a frequent visitor in Islamabad with key players, including Pakistan Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani and ISI director Ahmed Shuja Pasha, but he has engendered the resentment of Pakistani officials because of his demands that they do more against the Afghan Taliban, according to the report.
Many of them believe he is too transparently ambitious - a criticism that he has at times faced among his peers in the United States, the report added.
During an interview late last year in Islamabad, a high-ranking Pakistani intelligence official repeatedly referred to the US commander as “Mr Petraeus”, refusing to acknowledge his military rank.
“I call him Mr Petraeus because he’s less of a general and more of a politician,” the official said on the condition of anonymity, alluding to rumours that Petraeus might run for president.
Petraeus seems unlikely to encounter significant opposition from Capitol Hill. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which will consider the nomination, signalled support for Petraeus but stopped short of a formal endorsement.
“He is clearly a very accomplished officer and familiar with the parts of the world where many of the threats to our security originate,” Feinstein said in a statement. But being a military commander “is a different role than leading the top civilian intelligence agency,” Feinstein said, adding that she would “look forward to hearing his vision for the CIA.”
First Published: Saturday, April 30, 2011, 22:19