Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Best Defense exclusive: Petraeus to be succeeded by Marine Gen. John Allen

I am hearing around town that Gen. David Petraeus will indeed step down in Afghanistan later this year, and probably will be replaced by Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen. That’s a terrific plan. I also am hearing that Petraeus, who is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill next week, is worn out. It would be ...

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I am hearing around town that Gen. David Petraeus will indeed step down in Afghanistan later this year, and probably will be replaced by Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen.

That's a terrific plan. I also am hearing that Petraeus, who is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill next week, is worn out. It would be nice to give him a breather before making him chairman of the Joint Chiefs, or, smarter move, making him national security advisor, if President Obama decides he wants a real one, instead of the Hill staffers and ex-lobbyists for Fannie Mae the White House has been trotting out. (The current lineup is just Bidenism at its worst, confusing Congress with the real world. And, while I'm at it, I'm still an Obama fan, but he seriously needs to get better at talking to and listening to his military leaders, and these guys aren't helping.)

Anyway, dispatching General Allen to Kabul would be a step in the right direction. He's an unusual officer. I wrote about him in The Gamble, in a section titled "The General Who Loved Gertrude Bell," the British archeologist and writer who was what Lawrence of Arabia tried to be. (Pp. 219-223) Allen once told me that if he hadn't been a Marine he would have liked to have been an archeologist. (What is that verb tense-"if he hadn't . . . he would have liked to have been"-past conditional subjunctive? Reminds me of the Polish phrase, "Gdybym mia? pieni?dze, to kupi?bym go." And don't we all?)

I am hearing around town that Gen. David Petraeus will indeed step down in Afghanistan later this year, and probably will be replaced by Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen.

That’s a terrific plan. I also am hearing that Petraeus, who is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill next week, is worn out. It would be nice to give him a breather before making him chairman of the Joint Chiefs, or, smarter move, making him national security advisor, if President Obama decides he wants a real one, instead of the Hill staffers and ex-lobbyists for Fannie Mae the White House has been trotting out. (The current lineup is just Bidenism at its worst, confusing Congress with the real world. And, while I’m at it, I’m still an Obama fan, but he seriously needs to get better at talking to and listening to his military leaders, and these guys aren’t helping.)

Anyway, dispatching General Allen to Kabul would be a step in the right direction. He’s an unusual officer. I wrote about him in The Gamble, in a section titled "The General Who Loved Gertrude Bell," the British archeologist and writer who was what Lawrence of Arabia tried to be. (Pp. 219-223) Allen once told me that if he hadn’t been a Marine he would have liked to have been an archeologist. (What is that verb tense-"if he hadn’t . . . he would have liked to have been"-past conditional subjunctive? Reminds me of the Polish phrase, "Gdybym mia? pieni?dze, to kupi?bym go." And don’t we all?)

Allen was the deputy commander of the Marines in Iraq in 2007, as the Anbar Awakening took hold and changed the politics of Iraq. He played a big role in that by meeting with insurgents and other Sunni leaders, often in Jordan and the Gulf states.

Generals Petraeus and Mattis are both big fans of Allen. As I understand it, when Petraeus was given the Centcom command, he asked for Allen to be his deputy. As a captain, Allen won the Marines’ Leftwich Trophy, awarded to the best company commander in the Corps each year. According to his Centcom bio, he also scored an couple of unusual firsts-first Marine officer to join the Council on Foreign Relations as a term member, first Marine officer to serve as commandant of midshipmen at Annapolis

UPDATE: A reader points out that NPR also reported this morning that Gen. Allen likely will replace Gen. Petraeus.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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