Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has been tapped to become chief of U.S. Central Command, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday. Gen. David Petraeus has been the commander in Iraq for more than a year.
Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno will take over for Petraeus as commander in Iraq, Gates said.
As Ilan Goldenberg points out at Democratic Arsenal, this move will take two of the biggest critics of our Iraq strategy -- Fallon and Gen. Cody (who is currently Petraeus' #2 in Iraq) -- out of Iraq and replacing them with Petraeus and Odeirno. who haven't had a critical word on the Iraq strategy yet. And this is the team that will greet the new president in January.
First, it'll be interesting to see how he handles the tension of Afghanistan and Iraq from that position since Gates, Mullen and Fallon have all made clear that Iraq is hurting our mission in Afghanistan. Somehow I have a feeling that he will advise that we continue to place all of our strategic eggs in the Iraq basket.
Second, the confirmation hearings should give Democrats an opportunity to finally get Petraeus to answer some central questions. Is the mission in Iraq hurting Afghanistan and Pakistan? What is the central front in the fight against Al Qaeda? What about our overstretched forces? Is Iraq making America safer? Petraeus was able to dodge (Somewhat legitimately) on a number of these questions in the past by arguing that this wasn't his job. Well, now it is. So he really needs to answer.
Third, there was speculation that Petraeus was going to move off to SACEUR right around January. This guarantees that if there is a Democratic administration, Petraeus may end up playing a central role in helping design an exit strategy. Of course, in testimony last month he brought into question whether he'd actually be willing to do that. Which is huge, and must be asked again during the hearings.
Brandon Friedman of VetVoice: This shows an absolute devotion on the Bush administration's part to placing the needs of Iraq ahead of the needs of America. As Afghanistan and Pakistan have become the greater problem, it would be more appropriate for the Bush administration to appoint a recent Afghanistan commander to lead CENTCOM. Remember, while General Petraeus will now be responsible for the fight in Afghanistan, he has never served in Afghanistan.