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At CIA, Petraeus takes up top spy post
Tuesday - 9/6/2011, 4:55pm EDT
AP Intelligence Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - David Petraeus, the newly retired general with the megawatt media profile, was sworn in Tuesday as CIA director, leaving behind a 37-year Army career that made him the best-known general of his generation.
Petraeus was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden as the 20th director of the so-called silent service in a ceremony at the White House.
"You led and trained the 9/11 generation to become the greatest group of warriors this country has ever seen," Biden said of Petraeus. "You've excelled in every single thing you've done."
Yet that's part of the reason some in the White House are so wary of the famous former four-star. Petraeus excelled even at persuading President Barack Obama to choose his Afghan troop surge over Biden's preference for a much smaller force of trainers and special operations troops to hunt terrorists _ which lent a touch of irony to having Biden conduct the event.
Admirers and detractors alike are watching to see whether Petraeus will use his influence with the media and Capitol Hill to push for a continued larger commitment of U.S. troops to Afghanistan, according to two current and one former U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive discussions at the National Security Council.
Petraeus already went on record at his Senate confirmation hearing that the drawdown of troops over the coming year announced by the president is faster than the military recommended.
Inside the CIA, there's concern that analysts will be pressured to emulate their new boss' rosier view of war progress, after producing a series of grim assessments of conditions in Afghanistan. Petraeus oversaw the Afghanistan war directly or indirectly for more than four years.
Petraeus has acknowledged differences with CIA analysts in the past, saying he thought the analysts were forced to rely on data at least 6 weeks old. He vowed to study their current system and find ways to get them more timely data.
"I respect the intellectual firepower as well as the courage, initiative and selfless commitment that are the hallmarks of this organization," Petraeus told employees on his first day, according to a statement from the CIA.
The most recent CIA analysis of the Afghan war could even be interpreted as vindicating Petraeus' criticism of the speed of the drawdown.
The summer assessment predicted a stalemate in the war against a Taliban newly invigorated by the Obama drawdown announcement, according to one current and one former U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters. Intelligence intercepts between Taliban commanders show they plan to bide their time until more U.S. troops leave over the coming year, and then step up attacks, the current official said.
White House officials fear that Petraeus might use that analysis in his new position to back his old troop-intensive war strategy, according to U.S. officials both current and former.
Some top intelligence officials, current and former, warn that tension with the White House could hobble Petraeus, as it did Obama outsider Dennis Blair, the retired admiral and former director of national intelligence. Blair clashed with then-CIA chief Leon Panetta and lost his post.
But Petraeus has insisted he will be serving the president and the policymakers, providing information, but not shaping policy.
And the White House and Petraeus both have taken steps to make peace.
Obama has promised Petraeus regular, weekly access in a capital where face time with the president equals influence.
Petraeus agreed to hire Obama White House veteran, and longtime CIA employee Rodney Snyder to be his chief of staff. Snyder has spent the past few years at the NSC, as a senior official on intelligence and counterterrorism issues.
Another encouraging sign is an employee who is staying put, at least for now. That's the current chief of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, who is an undercover operative, and the de facto chief of the agency's drone war against al-Qaida. He had initially made moves to depart because of past personality clashes with Petraeus when they both served in leadership roles in Iraq.
Petraeus has vowed to reach out to such experienced staffers, recruiting them as he said he knew they would try to recruit him.
One crossover skill that agency staff welcome is Petraeus' and wife Holly's reputation for taking care of troops he commands_ a crucial skill in a secret world where you can't tell your neighbor what you do, why you travel so much, or perhaps, how you got wounded overseas.
A Petraeus trait that CIA staff is less excited about: his penchant for taking his staff on 10-mile morning runs.
AP National Security Writer Anne Gearan and Associated Press writer Julie Pace contributed to this report.
Kimberly Dozier can be followed via Twitter on (at)kimberlydozier.
(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)