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Afghanistan disappointed by McChrystal resignation, optimistic about Petraeus

McChrystal also played a key role in improving Kabul's rocky relationship with Islamabad. Karzai met with Pakistan's intelligence chief recently to discuss cooperation in negotiating with Afghan Taliban leaders.

Yet Petraeus probably has as much, if not more, clout in Islamabad. He was an early proponent of a regional strategy that prioritized improving relations with Pakistan in hopes of persuading it to target the Afghan Taliban fighters who use Pakistani hideouts to plot attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Petraeus made his first trip to Pakistan in November 2008, shortly after being appointed head of Central Command. He has visited several times since, delivering assurances that the U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan would not spill over into Pakistan, visiting Pakistani paramilitary forces in the northwestern city of Peshawar and regularly praising Pakistan's fight against its domestic Taliban, an offshoot of the Afghan Taliban.

He visited most recently in May, for the sixth time in 12 months.

"There's a complete understanding of each other's situation," a senior Pakistani military official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because Pakistan had not yet offered an official reaction. "He's not a stranger."

In Iraq, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called Petraeus the architect of the turnaround in the war there. Violence has dropped off significantly since the height of the conflict, and many attribute that to Petraeus, who implemented a surge of U.S. troops and paid former insurgents to battle al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Still, Zebari cautioned, "the situation in Iraq and in Afghanistan is really different."

Brulliard reported from Islamabad. Leila Fadel in Baghdad also contributed to this report.

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