Sitting in the departure lounge at Heathrow, waiting for my flight to Washington yesterday, I noticed a familiar figure – David Miliband. It was strange to see a man I’d known as foreign secretary as just a normal traveller – passport in hand, clad in jeans and a white shirt. Once we arrived in Washington, I vaguely expected someone from protocol to sweep Miliband away. But no – he queued up to be finger-printed at immigration with the rest of us.
The announcement that General David Petraeus is going to run the CIA is interesting for lots of reasons. Some political pundits reckon that it is a clever way for President Obama to sideline a potential rivalry for the presidency. It is also a sign of the increasingly militarised nature of the CIA. By tradition the Agency is headed by a civilian. But in recent years, it has taken the lead in running the lethal drone strikes, targetting al-Qaeda and other militants based inside Pakistan. The CIA also has its own paramilitaries and special forces who were very much in evidence in the initial invasion of Afghanistan.
I think the biggest concern about Petraeus must be whether he will be capable of making impartial intelligence judgements about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – given that he played such a big role in designing the strategies there.