News / USA

Analysts: US National Security Shakeup Comes at Critical Time

Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, center, pauses as he speaks about US troops, as President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary-nominee Leon Panetta listen, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, April 28, 2011
Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, center, pauses as he speaks about US troops, as President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary-nominee Leon Panetta listen, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, April 28, 2011


Meredith Buel

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday announced a major shakeup of his national security team. Analysts say the move comes during a critical period in the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

The president said he is nominating CIA Director Leon Panetta as the next defense secretary and Army General David Petraeus to succeed Panetta as CIA chief.

Anthony Cordesman, a military and intelligence analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the personnel changes come during a particularly complicated moment in Washington. "At a time of extreme partisan bitterness, growing debate over the Afghan war and what is going to be a self-seeking jockeying for political advantage over every aspect of the federal budget, which is going to last at least through 2012."

Panetta will take over at the Pentagon from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is expected to retire in June, and has received generally positive reviews for his management of the CIA.

Rick Nelson is a retired U.S. Navy helicopter pilot with more than 20 years experience in military operations, including assignments at the National Security Council and the National Counterterrorism Center.

He said Panetta is a good choice to lead the Department of Defense, which is facing budget cuts and a drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. "He was able to go into the CIA at a very critical time, as an outsider, win over the workforce there and lead the CIA back into pretty positive territory. I think that says a lot about him as a leader, as a manager, particularly as someone who can operate inside the Washington, D.C. bureaucracy. So going over to the Pentagon, he is going to be able to play those skills further."

With the CIA and Defense Department appointments, senior Obama administration officials say the president wants to continue current policies.

General Petraeus is not expected to leave his post as commander of NATO and head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan until he implements the first phase of President Obama’s expected gradual withdrawal of forces, set to begin in July.

Petraeus is expected to retire from the Army before becoming director at the CIA.

As CIA director, Panetta has supervised a sharp increase in the agency’s bombing campaign in Pakistan. U.S. officials have never publicly acknowledged the use of drone airstrikes in Pakistan, but privately they have confirmed their existence to various news outlets.

Petraeus has used Special Operations troops to conduct secret intelligence missions in Afghanistan.

John McLaughlin served at the CIA for three decades and is a former acting director of the agency. He said the Petraeus appointment comes at a time of increasing cooperation between the CIA and the Pentagon.

"I think it is a good appointment. I think the CIA will find General Petraeus very compatible with the agency culture. His background is interesting. Most people do not realize he has a Ph.D., for example. He is a soldier-scholar. So he is well prepared to be comfortable on both the operational and the analytic sides of the CIA," said McLaughlin.

The president is nominating Ryan Crocker, a former ambassador to Pakistan and Iraq, to replace Karl Eikenberry as ambassador to Afghanistan.

Lieutenant General John Allen, the deputy chief of Central Command, will replace Petraeus as commander of U.S. and international military forces.

Cordesman points out these changes come at a critical time of transition in Afghanistan.

"So virtually all of the U.S. country team is going to be changing at the top as we go into one of the most critical [military] campaign seasons and at a time when it is obvious that American support for the war is steadily diminishing," said Cordesman.

Obama's nominations all require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs