With Defense Secretary Robert Gates leaving soon, Barack Obama is expected to replace him with Leon Panetta. In a surprising move, Panetta may be replaced as CIA Director by General David Petraeus, currently in command of American forces in Afghanistan. Petraeus will be replaced by Lt. Gen. John Allen while Ryan Crocker becomes the new ambassador to Afghanistan. Some question moving Petraeus to the Central Intelligence Agency may be a sign that the Obama administration is gearing up for a rapid troop draw-down in Afghanistan prior to the 2012 elections.

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Robert Gates has been Defense Secretary since President George W. Bush asked Donald Rumsfeld to step down late in 2006. Gates took over as General Petraeus executed the Iraqi Troop Surge early in 2007, which appeared to bring stability in Iraq. During Senate hearings on the matter, then Senators Obama and Hillary Clinton were rude and condescending to Petraeus, all but calling him a liar. Most Democrat senators at the time opposed the troop surge in Iraq and had already given up any hopes for success there. Petraeus proved them wrong.

Gen. David Petraeus replaced Gen. Stanley McCrystal after an embarrassing feature article appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine last year which was highly critical of many Obama administration officials just as a troop surge in Afghanistan was underway. In recent months, the war in Afghanistan has taken a turn for the worse as more conflicts between the U.S. government and the Afghan government of Hamid Karzia has intensified. Charges of corruption of the Karzia administration, including many issues brought to light via WikiLeak documents, show a growing strain in relations.

Strained relations in the region are also occurring between the United States and Pakistan. Given that Taliban and al Qaeda forces use northwestern Pakistan for bases to operate in Afghanistan from, recent calls by the Pakistan government to suspend Predator drone attacks and removal of CIA operatives from the country would have a severe impact. The Obama administration appears weak and drifting as to what course of action to pursue in the region.

Moving Leon Panetta to the Pentagon from the Central Intelligence Agency is a dubious one. His record at the CIA has been marred by the recent uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East. During testimony on Capitol Hill, Panetta all but said he only knows what he sees watching cable TV news. Moving David Petraeus to the CIA could be a political move by Barack Obama, as many saw a potential presidential candidacy by the embattled general as a threat to Obama. Some analysts believe that Obama appointing Gen. John Allen to replace Petraeus, and Ryan Crocker as the new ambassador to Afghanistan as a sign that Obama is preparing to withdrawal from the region, despite his rhetoric during 2008 that he would wage a more aggressive war there than Senator John McCain.

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