***UPDATE*** Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell released this statement:
Despite some sensational speculation by one of the London papers, I can assure you General Petraeus is not quitting as ISAF commander, but nor does he plan to stay in Afghanistan forever. Obviously he will rotate out at some point, but that point has not yet been determined and it will not occur anytime soon. Until then, he will continue to ably lead our coalition forces in Afghanistan.
General David Petraeus is expected to leave his post as commander of United States troops in Afghanistan, the Times Of London reports early Tuesday evening.
The Washington Post reported earlier in the day:
No final decisions have been made, but military officials said that Petraeus, who took command last July, will rotate out of Afghanistan before the end of the year.
The general who replaces Petraeus will have to navigate a tricky relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani leaders...
According to the Times, the Pentagon is expected to name a replacement for Petraeus by the end of the year.
President Barack Obama tapped Petraeus to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal last summer after controversy swirling around critical comments the then-commander made about Obama administration officials to Rolling Stone landed him out of his post.
Petraeus has been talked about for a while as a possible successor to Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), who is expected to retire in October. Any move would be part of a broader shake-up in the administration, which will also see Defense Secretary Robert Gates retire this year.
His departure, especially with Gates on his way out, could create the space for Obama to recalibrate Afghan strategy, backing away from the military surge and focusing more on a political settlement - if he wants to do so.
The Post notes that Petraeus is not the only leading U.S. official in Afghanistan expected to rotate out of his post this year. Among others, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who has expressed reservations about the country's Afghan war strategy, will reportedly leave his job in coming months.
The Times reports:
It forms part of a sweeping reorganisation of top American officials in Afghanistan, which the Obama Administration hopes to present as proof that its strategy does not depend on the towering reputation of one man.
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