In the Arena

Who Replaces Petraeus?

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The Pentagon is arrthymic with rumors about the fate of David Petraeus and who will replace him in command of the Multi-National Force in Iraq (MNF-I). The latest scuttlebutt has Petraeus moving on up to NATO command in the late autumn, possibly after the election. Those who like Petraeus believe this will be a prelude to his becoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs after Admiral Michael Mullen’s term expires. But not everyone likes Petraeus, which is why the rumors about who’ll replace him in Iraq are hot and heavy right now.

There are two candidates, Generals Peter Chiarelli and Stanley McChrystal. Chiarelli–who commanded the U.S. troops in Iraq under the current Army Chief of Staff, General George Casey–comes from the Petraeus wing of the Army, a military intellectual well-versed in counter-insurgency doctrine. McChrystal is a special ops guy, currently commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, who claims Casey as his mentor. Casey is–famously, in the Army–no fan of Petraeus. A McChrystal ascension–which is the current betting–would be seen, fairly or not, as Casey’s revenge. Given the success in calming down Baghdad’s neighborhoods, it would seem unlikely that the Petraeus doctrine will be rolled back…on the other hand, Casey reportedly has been among those pressing for a quicker withdrawal from Iraq and McChrystal’s mission may be to send as many troops home as he can.

Update: Thanks to reader J.J. for pointing out that Centcom Commander, Admiral William Fallon, may be heading for an early exit.. Fallon has had a running dispute with Petraeus over troop strength in Iraq, favoring a quicker drawdown. I’m not sure how all these pieces fit together, if they fit at all, but I’ll make a few more calls…For what it’s worth, I don’t think this has anything to do with an attack on Iran. Ain’t gonna happen.