Agence France Presse
WASHINGTON: CIA Director David Petraeus resigned Friday because of an extramarital affair, bringing an end to a brilliant career that included pivotal roles as a military commander in US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair,” Petraeus said in a message to CIA staff. “Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.”
Michael Morell, Petraeus’s deputy at the US spy agency, will serve as acting director. President Barack Obama expressed his “utmost confidence” in Morell’s leadership at the CIA.
Petraeus, 60, took over the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency just over a year ago in September 2011 after retiring as a four star US Army general, easily the most celebrated military leader of his generation.
He was credited by some with rescuing a failing US war in Afghanistan in 2007, after then president George W. Bush ordered a surge of US forces into the country.
Obama later turned to him to lead a similar surge in US forces in Afghanistan in 2010, leaving a top post as commander of all US forces in the Middle East to do so.
As Obama moved to draw down US forces from Afghanistan, Petraeus moved to the CIA last year at a time when the agency was heavily involved in a drone war against insurgents in Pakistan and Yemen.
Obama accepted the CIA chief’s resignation after meeting with him on Thursday, but hailed his “extraordinary service.”
“By any measure, he was one of the outstanding general officers of his generation, helping our military adapt to new challenges, and leading our men and women in uniform through a remarkable period of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he helped our nation put those wars on a path to a responsible end.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lamented the “loss of one of our nation’s most respected public servants.”
“Whether he was in uniform leading our nation’s troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or at CIA headquarters leading the effort to generate intelligence used to keep our nation safe, Dave inspired people who had the privilege of working with him,” Clapper said.
“I have spent more than five decades serving our country — in uniform and out — and of all the exceptional men and women I have worked with over the years, I can honestly say that Dave Petraeus stands out as one of our nation’s great patriots.”
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, a Republican, praised Petraeus as “one of America’s most outstanding and distinguished military leaders and a true American patriot.”
“I hold general Petraeus in the highest regard, regret his resignation and wish him and his family the very best,” he added.
Petraeus has long been suspected of harboring political ambitions but he has repeatedly fended off questions about a possible White House run.
The 101st Airborne Division paratrooper, who rewrote the Army’s manual for counter-insurgency warfare, is a keen athlete who twice escaped death, once when he was shot accidentally during training and then during a parachute jump which went wrong.
No US general since William Westmoreland during the Vietnam War has been so influential or prominent.
Intensely competitive, he graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1974, was the top of his 1983 class at the US Army Command and General Staff College and went on to earn a doctorate in international relations at Princeton University.