Report: Petraeus to Leave Afghanistan Post by End of Year
The Times of London, in an exclusive report, says that General David Petraeus will be gone by the end of 2011.
The Times of London said the Pentagon aims to replace General Petraeus, who was appointed less than eight months ago, by the end of the year.
Sources have confirmed that the search for a new commander in Kabul is under way. 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.
"General Petraeus is doing a brilliant job but he's been going virtually non-stop since 9/11 [and] he can't do it for ever," Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, told The Times.
President Barack Obama and Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, "are already thinking about that," he said.
The reshuffle will involve the return to Washington of the top five US diplomats in Kabul, including its Ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, as well as the likely departure of Lieutenant-General David Rodriguez, deputy to General Petraeus.
The changes follow the appointment this week of Marc Grossman, a career diplomat, as Mr Obama's new special envoy to the region with the urgent task of rescuing US-Pakistani relations after the arrest of an American diplomat who is charged with a double murder in Lahore.
Many of the moves are expected to coincide with a reduction in US troop numbers, which Mr Obama has promised will start this summer, despite General Petraeus's objections.
The news that the General himself would be leaving Kabul stunned close observers of US strategy, but the Pentagon insisted today it was a natural development, given the demands of running the war and Washington's need for fresh blood in a crucial role.
Both the Chair and Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be open this year, and Petraeus is well positioned for either job. He's also been discussed as a possible contender for the White House.