Now, though, Obama may benefit from Petraeus’s abrupt departure in making the case for withdrawing U.S. troops in Afghanistan more quickly.
Petraeus advocated a more gradual drawdown, and without his influential voice inside Obama’s war cabinet, the president may have a freer hand in picking up the pace.
Asked Tuesday about what implications Petraeus’s exit may have on Afghan policy, a senior administration official said, “It’s too soon to know, but the bottom line is we’re proceeding ahead.”
Allen, too, has favored keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan for as long as possible before the overall military mission expires at the end of 2014.
He was set to brief Obama this week on his plan to withdraw the remaining 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as he visited Washington for confirmation hearings on his nomination to head the European Command. His nomination is now on hold.
Allen, and Petraeus before him, lost a previous debate with Obama over how quickly to remove the 33,000 troops the president ordered there at the end of 2009. The two generals favored leaving those forces in place until the end of this year, but the last “surge” units returned last month.
Administration officials and outside analysts say they do not expect Allen’s problems to affect the overall war plan in Afghanistan, given that his replacement, Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, has been named.
“Allen and the administration have surely hashed out their positions on this,” said Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has advised the military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama didn’t expect to have to fill a top national security job. The vacancy may help him resolve a personnel jam in his administration at the level of deputy national security adviser.
Officials in the administration say Obama would like John O. Brennan, his chief counterterrorism adviser; Denis R. McDonough, one of Obama’s closest and longest-serving advisers; and Antony J. Blinken, Vice President Biden’s national security adviser whom Obama respects, to remain for a second term.
But it is time for each to advance, and there are not necessarily enough higher-level jobs for them to do so. Petraeus’s departure may make room for one.
It is possible that Obama will nominate acting CIA Director Michael J. Morell for the post. The president also could tap Brennan, a former senior CIA official, for the job to keep a highly trusted adviser — who is considering leaving — in the administration.
“We have a number of issues that we’re contending with,” Carney said. “The president will engage in a thoughtful process and make personnel decisions that need to be made in a timely manner. And when we have decisions to announce, we’ll announce them.”
Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.