Petraeus resigns over affair, as criticism grows of CIA response in Libya
Officials will want to know if there was any link between David Petraeus’s extramarital activities and what has been increasingly criticized as the CIA’s weak performance during the Benghazi attack.
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In a statement released Friday afternoon, President Obama praised Petraeus for his “extraordinary service” to the country, adding, “By any measure, through his lifetime of service, David Petraeus has made our country safer and stronger.”Skip to next paragraph
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In a statement, Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona highlighted Petraeus’s role in Iraq, saying that his “inspirational leadership and his genius were directly responsible – after years of failure – for the success of the surge in Iraq.”
But Petraeus’s success in Iraq and Afghanistan was a result to a certain extent of his focus on a counterinsurgency strategy that involved large numbers of troops fighting the enemy by incorporating nation-building into the battle. When Mr. Obama named Petraeus to head the CIA, it was widely interpreted as the president’s signal that he intended to wind down America’s wars and shift from a counterinsurgency strategy to counterterrorism.
Obama did not cite Petraeus’s reason for resigning but did say, “Going forward, my thoughts and prayers are with Dave and Holly Petraeus, who has done so much to help military families through her own work. I wish them the very best at this difficult time.”
Mrs. Petraeus is the assistant director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where she supports veterans and troops facing difficulties as a result of the financial crisis.
Obama initially tried to convince Petraeus not to resign, according to some souces. “I am told that President Obama tried to talk Petraeus out of resigning, but Petraeus took the samurai route and insisted that he had done a dishonorable thing and now had to try to balance it by doing the honorable thing and stepping down as CIA director,” Tom Ricks reports in his blog “The Best Defense.”
Such a move is in keeping with the military culture in which Petraeus rose to the rank of four-star general.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, adultery is a punishable offense for soldiers if the conduct is shown to be detrimental “to good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”
Obama said that Michael Morell, deputy director of the CIA, would take over as acting director. Mr. Morell served briefly as acting director after Leon Panetta left the agency last year to become Defense secretary.
Petraeus was set to testify Thursday at a closed-door session of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Benghazi attack, but it was unclear if his resignation would alter that schedule.
“I would have stood up for him,” she said. “I wanted him to continue. He was good, he loved the work, and he had a command of intelligence issues second to none.”
Obama, after winning reelection Tuesday, was already expected to make some changes in his national security team for a second term, but early speculation had been that Petraeus would stay on at the CIA. Now the job of spy chief will be added to the new-team mix.