WASHINGTON -- David Petraeus, the retired four-star general who led the U.S. military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, has resigned as director of the CIA after admitting he had an extramarital affair.
The resignation shocked Washington's intelligence and political communities, representing a sudden end to the public career of the best-known general of the post 9/11 wars.
According to a statement he sent to CIA employees, Petraeus asked President Barack Obama on Thursday to allow him to resign and on Friday the president accepted. Petraeus said he had shown "extremely poor judgment" in having the affair.
"Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours," Petraeus said.
Obama said in a statement that the general had provided "extraordinary service to the United States for decades" and had offered a lifetime of service that had "made our country safer and stronger."
The president said that CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell would serve as acting director. "I am completely confident that the CIA will continue to thrive and carry out its essential mission," Mr. Obama said.
Petraeus has been married for 37 years to Holly Petraeus, whom he met when he was a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
In his statement, he said to Obama, "Teddy Roosevelt once observed that life's greatest gift is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing. I will always treasure my opportunity to have done that with you, and I will always regret the circumstances that brought that work with you to an end."
Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who served as CIA director under President George W. Bush, before turning the reins over to Leon Panetta at the start of President Barack Obama's administration, learned of the resignation while addressing a group of students and professors at Duquesne University. A student in the auditorium started the question-and-answer session by asking if Gen. Hayden was aware of the development.
"I knew something was going on because my cell phone was going crazy," he said. "And last night, there was a perceptible disturbance in the force."
Gen. Hayden expressed confidence in Mr. Morell's ability to take the helm of the agency.
"He has a very good relationship with the national security team and President Obama," Gen. Hayden said. "I think the administration would be very comfortable with Michael Morell either permanently -- and I don't know this, I'm just making this up -- or for as long as it takes for them to name someone else.
"Michael was Leon Panetta's No. 2 and he became Gen. Petraeus' No. 2. Prior to that, he was my No. 3. He was President George W. Bush's [daily briefer]. And on the morning of Sept. 11, he was on the plane with the president. So, here's somebody who can step up and send out the message: Steady as she goes, quiet in the ranks," Gen. Hayden said.
"He is a career CIA officer and he is highly regarded by both the current agency and the alumni association."
Though Obama made no direct mention of Petraeus' reason for leaving, he offered his thoughts and prayers to the general and his wife, saying that Mrs. Petraeus has "done so much to help military families through her own work. I wish them the very best at this difficult time."
The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said in a separate statement that Petraeus' departure represented "the loss of one of our nation's most respected public servants. From his long, illustrious Army career to his leadership at the helm of CIA, Dave has redefined what it means to serve and sacrifice for one's country," Gen. Hayden said of Morell.
Post-Gazette reporter Dan Majors contributed. First Published November 9, 2012 8:15 PM