Analysis: Petraeus battles fears of CIA "militarization"

Sep 5, 2011, 10:07 p.m.
U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commanding general of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), delivers remarks before he administers the oath of re-affirmation and re-enlistment to U.S. service members at Kandahar Airfield in Kandahar July 4, 2011. REUTERS/Haraz N. Ghanbari/U.S.

By Phil Stewart and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Newly retired General David Petraeus is well aware that his swearing-in as the next director of the CIA, expected on Tuesday, might stoke concerns about the "militarization" of the U.S. spy agency.

It was one of the reasons the storied battlefield commander hung up his uniform last week after a 37-year career in the Army. It may also be why he appears so intent on fulfilling a pledge to leave his military entourage -- "braintrusts" as he calls them -- behind when he arrives at the CIA's Langley, Virginia, compound.

But even as he surrounds himself with civilian advisors, a process sources say is well under way, questions remain about the influence Petraeus might have on the CIA, both analytically and in its use of lethal force against al Qaeda.

Petraeus cannot be expected to divorce himself from a view shared at the highest levels of the U.S. military that the Afghan war is broadly trending in the right direction and that the Taliban's momentum has been reversed. The CIA has been more cautious in its assessment of the decade-old conflict than the military.

How Petraeus will reconcile those visions of the war effort he commanded until July, and reassure CIA analysts of his objectivity, could be one of the biggest challenges facing the Army general in this transition.

Then there are larger questions about the blurred lines between covert CIA operations and military ones in the battle against al Qaeda -- including the CIA's armed Predator drone campaign in Pakistan, a program which appears to have scored a major victory with an August 22 strike that killed al Qaeda's No. 2.

Petraeus attempted to address the issue head-on at his confirmation hearing in June, saying one of the reasons he was retiring from the military -- even though no law compelled him to do so -- was to allay concerns about the militarization of the CIA. He also said he would seek to represent the "Agency position" on matters including the war in Afghanistan.

"Beyond that, I have no plans to bring my military brain trust with me to the agency," Petraeus said at the time.

"There is no shortage of impressive individuals at the agency, and I look forward to interacting with them and populating my office with them."

"If confirmed, I will, in short, get out of my vehicle alone on the day that I report to Langley."


To that end, sources tell Reuters that a longtime CIA insider -- not one of Petraeus' "guys" -- has been named as his new chief of staff. One person familiar with the matter identified him as Rodney Snyder, who has previously worked on the White House national security staff. But U.S. officials would not immediately confirm that name.

A U.S. official close to the general said Petraeus remarked recently to a friend that he believed every member of the existing CIA leadership team was a "strong swimmer."

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