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Obama Names Panetta to Defense, Petraeus to CIA Obama Names Panetta to Defense, Petraeus to CIA

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WHITE HOUSE

Obama Names Panetta to Defense, Petraeus to CIA

Crocker will head U.S. Embassy in Kabul, while Allen replaces Petraeus.

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President Obama announces the nominations of Gen. David Petraeus (right) to become CIA director and current CIA Director Leon Panetta (2nd right) to take over as secretary of Defense after Robert Gates (left) retires.(JIM WATSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

In a White House ceremony on Thursday, President Obama officially named Leon Panetta as the next Defense secretary and Gen. David Petraeus as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In annoucing his team, Obama said that the choices offered the "continuity and unity of effort that this moment in history demands" as the administration pursues two wars -- Afghanistan and Iraq -- and fights on a third battlefront in Libya. 

 

"Given the pivotal period we're entering, I felt it was absolutely critical we had this team in place so we can stay focused on our missions, maintain or momentum, and keep our nation secure," the president said during a brief ceremony in the East Room.

Obama also named Lt. Gen. John Allen to succeed Petraeus as commander of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Ryan Crocker to become the next ambassador to Afghanistan.

The realignment of the president’s national-security team represents more continuity than change but it poses challenges for the men involved and for the organizations they lead. Petraeus is a longtime consumer of intelligence but has often been at odds with the CIA’s assessment of the Afghan war; Panetta faces the daunting task of managing three conflicts while downsizing the Pentagon to cope with the nation’s long-term fiscal problems.

 

The names of the appointees leaked early on Wednesday morning. Thursday's announcement, while no surprise, still represented a signal moment in the nation's post-9/11 history, a reaffirmation that those who have been managing the nation's wars will continue to do so, albeit in different roles. 

To underscore the unity of his team, Obama was joined at the podium by the four nominees, Gates, Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

Obama called on the Senate to swiftly confirm all four appointees, although administration officials do not expect Petraeus to begin at the CIA before September. 

In one of the more emotional moments of the afternoon, Obama noted that Petraeus will shed his uniform. The general behind the surges in Afghanistan and Iraq plans to retire from the military before taking over at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. Having begun his military career as a cadet at West Point, Petraeus has risen through the Army ranks for some four decades. 

 

For his part, Panetta's taking the helm at the Pentagon represents something of a homecoming. He began his four decades of public service as an Army intelligence officer before stints as, among other things, a congressman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, White House chief of staff, and CIA director. 

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