This is State’s “diplomatic surge,” I guess. The Iranians hate Petraeus, because Petraeus doesn’t want to give them Iraq on a silver platter. So, we should pack him off to the bureaucratic backwater that is NATO? WTF?
Pentagon weighs top Iraq general as Nato chief
By Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt
The Pentagon is considering General David H. Petraeus for the top NATO command later this year, a move that would give the general, the top American commander in Iraq, a high-level post during the next administration but that has raised concerns about the practice of rotating war commanders.
A senior Pentagon official said that it was weighing “a next assignment for Petraeus” and that the NATO post was a possibility. “He deserves one and that has also always been a highly prestigious position,” the official said. “So he is a candidate for that job, but there have been no final decisions and nothing on the timing.”
The question of General Petraeus’s future comes as the Pentagon is looking at changing several top-level assignments this year. President Bush has been an enthusiastic supporter of General Petraeus, whom he has credited with overseeing a troop increase and counterinsurgency plan credited with reducing the sectarian violence in Iraq, and some officials say the president would want to keep General Petraeus in Iraq as long as possible.
In one approach under discussion, General Petraeus would be nominated and confirmed for the NATO post before the end of September, when Congress is expected to break for the presidential election. He might stay in Iraq for some time after that before moving to the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, but would take his post before a new president takes office.
If General Petraeus is shifted from the post as top Iraq commander, two leading candidates to replace him are Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who is running the classified Special Operations activities in Iraq, and Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, a former second-ranking commander in Iraq and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’s senior military assistant.
By this fall, General Petraeus would have served 19 months in command in Iraq and would have accumulated more than 47 months of service in Iraq in three tours there since 2003. In the NATO job, General Petraeus would play a major role in shaping the cold-war-era alliance’s identity, in coping with an increasingly assertive Russia and in overseeing the allied-led mission in Afghanistan.
General Petraeus, 55, has been criticized by Democratic lawmakers opposed to Mr. Bush’s decision to send additional combat forces to Iraq. A NATO post would give him additional command experience in an important but less politically contentious region, potentially positioning him as a strong candidate in a few years to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, several military officials said. They and some others who discussed the potential appointment declined to be identified because they were speaking about an internal personnel matter.
Some experts, however, say General Petraeus’s departure would jeopardize American efforts in Iraq, especially since the No. 2 officer in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, is scheduled to complete his tour and leave Iraq in mid-February.
General Petraeus “should stay at least through this year,” said Anthony Cordesman, a military specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We really need military continuity in command during this period in which we can find out whether we can transition from tactical victory to some form of political accommodation.
“We have in Petraeus and Crocker the first effective civil-military partners we have had in this war,” Mr. Cordesman added, referring to Ryan C. Crocker, the United States ambassador in Baghdad. Gen. George W. Casey Jr., General Petraeus’s predecessor, served nearly three years in the top Iraq job before becoming Army chief of staff.
There has been speculation that General Petraeus’s next post might be as head of the Central Command, which has responsibility for the Middle East region. That would enable him to continue to influence events in Iraq while overseeing the military operation in Afghanistan and developing a strategy to deal with Iran. The Central Command post is currently held by Adm. William J. Fallon. Admiral Fallon, through a spokesman, denied that he intended to retire from the military in the next several months.
General Petraeus, through a spokesman, declined to comment on a possible NATO assignment. Geoff Morrell, the senior Defense Department spokesman, said no decision had been made.
“Trying to guess General Petraeus’s next assignment is the most popular parlor game in the Pentagon these days,” Mr. Morrell said. “Where and when the general goes next is up to Secretary Gates and President Bush, and they have not yet decided those matters. However, they very much appreciate his outstanding leadership in Iraq and believe he has much more to contribute to our nation’s defense whenever his current assignment comes to an end.”
General Petraeus’s last post in Europe was as a senior officer for the NATO force in Bosnia, where he served a tour in 2001 and 2002. “He did a great job for me as a one-star in Bosnia,” said Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, who served as NATO commander at the time and has since retired. “He would have the credibility to keep Afghanistan focused for NATO.”
This is ridiculous. There is no reason to kick out the first successful general on the basis of bureaucratic procedure. Something else is up.