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50 People Who Matter 2011 | 2. David Petraeus

General knowledge.

On 6 September, David Petraeus was sworn in as director of the CIA, having been confirmed unanimously by 94 votes to zero at a US Senate hearing in June. The cerebral former general is best known for his role in Iraq; some credit his military "surge" there in 2007 for the decline in sectarian violence. With his knack for self-promotion, and adored by the media as a scholar-soldier, Petraeus has spent the past year trying - and failing - to pacify the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. But, given the importance of the CIA and "black ops" in the killing of Osama Bin Laden, he will have huge influence over the Obama administration's national security strategy - despite having clashed with the president over the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Petraeus has long been touted as a future Republican presidential candidate. Twelve of the 44 men who have served as president of the US were serving or former generals. Come 2016, don't bet against Petraeus becoming the 13th.

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This article first appeared in the 26 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The fifty people who matter