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Afghanistan: The Petraeus Factor

Largely invisible in the current debate over troop levels in Afghanistan, which has exposed some stress fractures between the Obama White House and the Pentagon, is Centcom commander David Petraeus. Given his immense credibility as the man perceived to have "saved" Iraq, Petraeus could have a potentially decisive influence on a domestic political debate about troop levels by making his own assessment known. But, while Petraeus's commentary about Iraq was once ubiquitous, today he's laying awfully low. (His most extensive recent commentary about Afghanistan comes in the form of a rather cautious Times of London op-ed, in which Petraeus reiterated his determination to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban through a hard counterinsurgency effort.)

One reason Petraeus might be managing his profile with extreme care? He knows that some Republicans--as reported earlier this month by Politico--are looking at the general as a potential 2012 messiah. If Petraeus is seen as publicly challenging Obama in a troop-level debate, the politics could get complicated awfully fast.